Motivating in the 21st Century

Daniel Pink, in his new book, “Drive:  The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” suggests that motivating people with the stick and carrot approach (i.e., you reach the goal and you’ll get a bonus, for instance), is an approach which actually squelches creativity and results in less productivity for many 21st Century work environments.

Instead, Pink suggests that in the complex workplaces of today organizations should rely on supporting intrinsic human motivators.  These intrinsic motivators are:

  • Autonomy – or the opportunity to self-direct and choose how to do our work;
  • Mastery – or the opportunity to get better and better;
  • Meaning – or the desire to do something that matters and is bigger than ourselves.

Pink suggests that when organizations create environments in which employee autonomy, mastery, and meaning are enhanced, the research shows the following results:  productivity increases, worker satisfaction increases, worker engagement increases, and turnover is lessened.  Not bad.

He provides examples in which organizations have allowed staff members to utilize significant blocks of time to work on ideas of their choosing.  The results?  Well, if you use gmail, thank Google for the policy allowing engineers to spend 20% of their time working on pet projects and ideas of their choosing.

So, how might we utilize Pink’s findings in the development area?  Here’s an idea: Take one day every six months and allow every person in your shop to work on whatever they want, in groups or alone.  The catch is everyone has to present their ideas at a meeting the next day.  This is called a “FedEx Day,” because everyone is responsible for delivering something overnight.

What creative and new ideas about special events might be birthed on such days?  what new donor acquisition or retention strategies might emerge?  or what new, thoughtful donor recognition and stewardship approaches might be suggested?  how might your gift acknowledgement processes be transformed?

You may think, “oh, this it just utopian, this kind of approach would only end up wasting 2 days each year!”  But I’ve always worked better and been more creative when I’ve had more autonomy, mastery, and meaning attached to my work.  What about you?



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