The University of Montana

Motivation 3.0

In Innovation, Leadership and Management, People, Policies, Strategy on August 5, 2010 at 7:05 am

Autonomy is an innate psychological need in humans. Our basic nature is to be curious and self-directed (at least until our parents and teachers break us).

In our jobs, we are most motivated and productive when we have autonomy over what we do, when we do it, how we do it, and with whom we do it. So says author Daniel Pink in his new book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

Pink borrows from the software world by dubbing the carrot-and-stick approach to management as “Motivation 2.0.” Most organizations have been stuck in this mindset since the industrial revolution. Pink argues that it’s time to upgrade our thinking about management to adapt to a new world that demands more complex, right-brained work.

We need “Motivation 3.0,” he says.

“Motivation 2.0 assumed that if people had freedom, they would shirk – and that autonomy was a way to bypass accountability,” Pink says. “Motivation 3.0 begins with a different assumption. It presumes that people want to be accountable – and that making sure they have control over their task, their time, their technique and their team is a pathway to that destination.

Here’s how a few organizations have put motivation 3.0 principles into practice:

In the 1930’s and 40’s, 3M adopted a policy that staff could spend up to 15 percent of their time working on projects of their choosing. One result of the policy was the invention of Post-It Notes. The company has made a few dollars off that innovation.

Not many organizations followed 3M’s lead. Google is an exception. Google has a 20 percent time policy – meaning that employees can spend 20 percent of their time working on any project they choose. In a typical year, half of Google’s new offerings emerge from this period of pure autonomy. Gmail, for example, was the product of the 20-percent policy.

At W.L. Gore and Associates (makers of GORE-TEX), anybody who wants to rise in the ranks of management can do so by assembling a team of people willing to work with them.

Meddius, a healthcare technology company in Virginia, adopted a policy called ROWE – Results Only Work Environment. Employees have no schedules. They can come in at 11 if they want. They can take off for their kid’s soccer game at three in the afternoon. No guilt. No icy stares from co-workers. Employees are still interdependent and accountable to project deadlines and sales goals, but after a six-month trial period, the company made the policy permanent.

Universities prove the power of Motivation 3.0. Universities have flourished for a thousand years because faculty have tremendous autonomy. That autonomy drives them to learn, to create and to make the world a better place. Not a lot of shirking going on.

But parts of the university still haven’t upgraded. Staff employees are predominantly managed in a “Motivation 2.0” system in which control is more important than creativity, innovation and making the world a better place. 

Give staff more autonomy over their tasks, their time, their techniques and their team and see what happens. The results might surprise you.


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