RSA ANIMATE: Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

RSA ANIMATE: Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

Our motivations
are unbelievably interesting. I’ve been working on this
for a few years and I find the topic still
amazingly engaging and interesting, so I want to tell you about that. The science is really surprising.
It’s a little bit freaky! We are not as endlessly manipulable and as predictable
as you would think. There’s a whole set
of unbelievably interesting studies. I want to give you two
that call into question this idea that if you reward something, you
get more of the behaviour you want and if you punish something
you get less of it. Let’s go from London to the mean
streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the northeast
of the United States, and talk about a study at MIT – Massachusetts Institute
of Technology. They took a whole group of students
and gave them a set of challenges. Things like… ..They gave them these challenges
and, to incentivise performance, they gave them
three levels of reward. If you did pretty well,
you got a small monetary reward. If you did medium well,
you got a medium monetary reward. If you were
one of the top performers, you got a large cash prize. We’ve seen this movie before. This is a typical motivation scheme
within organisations. We reward the very top performers.
We ignore the low performers. Folks in the middle,
OK, you get a little bit. So what happens? They do the test.
They have these incentives. Here’s what they found out. As long as the task involved
only mechanical skill, bonuses worked
as they would be expected. The higher the pay, the better
the performance. That makes sense. But here’s what happened. Once the task called for
even rudimentary cognitive skill, a larger reward
led to poorer performance. This is strange.
How can that possibly be? What’s interesting is that these
folks who did this are economists, two at MIT, one at University
of Chicago, one at Carnegie Mellon, the top tier
of the economics profession. They’re reaching this conclusion
that seems contrary to what a lot of us learned
in economics – the higher the reward,
the better the performance. They’re saying that once you get
above rudimentary cognitive skill, it’s the other way around. The idea that these rewards
don’t work that way seems vaguely left-wing
and socialist, doesn’t it? It’s a weird socialist conspiracy. For those of you
who have those conspiracy theories, I want to point out the notoriously
left-wing socialist group that financed the research –
the Federal Reserve Bank. This is the mainstream of the
mainstream coming to a conclusion that seems to defy
the laws of behavioural physics. This is strange, so what do they do? They say, “This is freaky.
Let’s test it somewhere else. “Maybe that $50, $60 prize “isn’t sufficiently motivating
for an MIT student! “Let’s go to a place where $50
is more significant, relatively. “We’re going to go to Madurai,
rural India, “where $50, $60 is actually
a significant sum of money.” They replicated the experiment
in India, roughly as follows. Small rewards –
the equivalent of two weeks’ salary. I mean, sorry, low performance –
two weeks’ salary. Medium performance –
a month’s salary. High performance –
two months’ salary. Those are real good incentives.
You’ll get a different result here. What happened was that
the people offered the medium reward did no better than the people
offered the small reward. This time around, the people offered
the top reward did worst of all. Higher incentives led
to worse performance. What’s interesting is
that it isn’t that anomalous. This has been replicated over
and over again by psychologists, by sociologists and by economists –
over and over and over again. For simple, straightforward tasks, “if you do this, then you get that”,
they’re great! For tasks that are algorithmic, a set of rules you have to follow
and get a right answer, “if then” rewards,
carrot and stick, outstanding! But when a task gets
more complicated, when it requires conceptual,
creative thinking, those kinds of motivators
demonstrably don’t work. Fact – money is a motivator at work,
but in a slightly strange way. If you don’t pay people enough,
they won’t be motivated. There’s another paradox here. The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough to take
the issue of money off the table, so they’re not thinking about money,
they’re thinking about the work. Once you do that, there are three
factors that the science shows lead to better performance, not
to mention personal satisfaction – autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy is our desire to be
self-directed, direct our own lives. In many ways, traditional notions
of management run foul of that. Management is great
if you want compliance. If you want engagement, which is
what we want in the workforce today, as people are doing
more sophisticated things, self-direction is better. Let me give you some examples of almost radical forms
of self-direction in the workplace that lead to good results. Let’s start with Atlassian,
an Australian software company. They do something really cool. Once a quarter on a Thursday,
they say to their developers, “For the next 24 hours,
you can work on anything you want, “the way you want,
with whomever you want. “All we ask is that you show
the results to the company “in this fun meeting –
not a star chamber session, “but with beer and cake and fun
and things like that.” It turns out that that one day
of pure, undiluted autonomy has led to a whole array of fixes
for existing software, a whole array of ideas
for new products that otherwise would never emerge –
one day. This is not the sort of thing
that I would have done before I knew this research. I would have said,
“You want people to be innovative? “Give them a frickin’
innovation bonus. “If you do something cool,
I’ll give you $2,500.” They’re saying, “You probably want
to do something interesting. “Let me get out of your way.” One day of autonomy produces things
that had never emerged. Let’s talk about mastery –
our urge to get better at stuff. We like to get better at stuff. This is why people play musical
instruments on the weekend. These people are acting in ways
that seem irrational economically. They play musical instruments? Why? It’s not going to get them a mate
or make them any money. Cos it’s fun. Cos you get better
at it and that’s satisfying. I imagine that if I went
to my first economics professor, a woman named Mary Alice Shulman, and I went to her in 1983 and said, “Professor Shulman,
can I talk to you after class? “I got this idea for a business
model and I want to run it past you. “Here’s how it would work. “You get a bunch of people around
the world who do highly skilled work “but they’re willing to do it
for free “and volunteer their time – 20,
sometimes 30 hours a week.” She’s looking somewhat
sceptically there. “But I’m not done! “Then what they create, they give
it away rather than sell it. “It’s gonna be huge!”
(LAUGHTER) She would have thought I was insane. It seems to fly in the face of
so many things, but you have Linux powering one out of four corporate
servers in Fortune 500 companies, Apache powering more than the
majority of web servers, Wikipedia. What’s going on?
Why are people doing this? Many are technically sophisticated,
highly skilled people who have jobs. OK? They have jobs!
They’re working at jobs for pay, doing sophisticated
technological work. And yet, during their limited
discretionary time, they do equally, if not more,
technically sophisticated work, not for their employer,
but for someone else for free. That’s a strange economic behaviour.
Economists have looked into it. “Why are you doing this?”
It’s overwhelmingly clear – challenge and mastery, along with
making a contribution, that’s it. What you see more and more
is the rise of the “purpose motive”. More and more organisations want
some kind of transcendent purpose. Partly because it makes
coming to work better, partly because that’s the way
to get better talent. What we’re seeing now is when the profit motive becomes
unmoored from the purpose motive, bad things happen. Ethically sometimes, but also
bad things, like “not good stuff”! Like crappy products. Like lame services. Like uninspiring places to work. When the profit motive is paramount or when it becomes completely
unhitched from the purpose motive, people don’t do great things. More and more organisations
are realising this, disturbing the categories between
what’s profit and what’s purpose. I think that actually heralds
something interesting. The companies that are flourishing –
profit, not-for-profit or somewhere in between –
are animated by this purpose motive. Let me give you some examples. The founder of Skype says,
“Our goal is to be disruptive, “but in the cause of making
the world a better place.” Pretty good purpose.
Here’s Steve Jobs. “I want to put a ding
in the universe.” That’s the kind of thing that might
get you up, racing to go to work. I think we are purpose maximisers,
not only profit maximisers. I think the science shows that
we care about mastery very deeply and that we want
to be self-directed. I think that the big take-away here is that if we start treating people
like people, not assuming
that they’re simply horses – slower, smaller,
better smelling horses – if we get past the ideology
of carrot and stick and look at the science, we can build organisations and
work lives that make us better off. They also have the promise to make
our world just a little bit better.

100 thoughts on “RSA ANIMATE: Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

  1. OK, so if I pay less for cognitive skills people will perform better? So let's pay these people who do these studies less. Cut all research grants.

  2. All that nonsensical drawing is just unbearable! A still picture would allow people to concentrate to the matter.

  3. Concerning core motivations is becoming more and more known, somewhere we all know how motivation works but we have forgotten, possibly too much prosperity, rather a more clear environment and certainties get people to sleep, surprisingly, you also find out that you belonged to this large group yourself. And of course, the only incentive money of the past decades.

  4. The basis for this to work – Pay people a salary that they do not have any needs. If you do not pay people enough they won't be motivated. This leads to better performance. This is basis of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

  5. One day of autonomy per quarter (about 60 work days) at that software company gave them all kinds of great rewards like software fixes, according to this video. If they were as amazed by what happened as this video makes them out to have been, they probably would have changed to a majority of days of autonomy, but there is no mention of them making ANY changes, so I wonder what the reality was, according to the actual bosses of the company. They might say that it is a fun playtime decompression thing, which helps them find some unconventional ideas, but that is all, and that the typical daily grind days are their bread and butter.

  6. Please note that the speaker uses the terms "rewards" and "punishers". These are not to be confused with "reinforcers" and "punishers" used by Skinnerian Behaviorists. The latter define a reinforcer as an event following a behavior that increases the likelihood of that behavior occurring again (under similar conditions). Reinforcers can include behavior-specific praise, money, free time to engage in blue-sky research, a game of volleyball, grappling classes, sky diving, pedicure, etc. Among other things (e.g. latency, contingency, magnitude, etc) a reinforcer's effectiveness in strengthening desirable work behaviors may change depending on the individual's preferences and the relationship between employees and leaders (presumably the people giving reinforcers).

  7. honestly i can put this simply. money is useless, and without it would be a step closer to peace and it would stop world hunger.

  8. Most of this research is pure bs. I am self-employed, so I can work on whatever I want, whenever I want. Money is not an issue any more either. My motivation to work on anything is still very low. Perhaps the "purpose" part is missing. How do you create purpose? Indeed, what's the purpose of work, if you're already completely satisfied and unwilling to listen to other people who'd like to tell you that you need more?

  9. I have always disliked the way school is making the students focus more on their grades and less on learning. This video explains it very well as you can exchange "more money" with "higher grades". I just sent this video to my teachers since they know how much I dislike the current school system………

  10. I've said for years that autonomy is the key to productivity, not hovering, micro-managing bosses that like to babysit employees. Now, over 20 years into the Internet Age, I can't believe 99.9% of companies don't offer full-time, work-from-home positions. If you have a computer, internet connection, and a phone, many jobs can be done from home. Even meetings can be conducted via conference call or Skype. Yet, corporate America remains stuck in the bricks-and-mortar office building when they could save millions or tens of millions of dollars on not renting commercial office space, utilities, office equipment, etc.

    Quality of life in the cities would be vastly improved because thousands of people wouldn't be participating in the morning and afternoon rush hours anymore. With no traffic or inner-office politics to deal with, people's stress levels would decrease significantly, and their health would get better. The benefits of moving toward a virtual workforce, as much as possible for each company, would improve society in countless ways and yet, corporate America is largely resisting this necessary evolution, opting to pay tens of millions of dollars more each year in the process for two reasons: 1.) Paranoia: companies unfamiliar with remote working arrangements think that if they can't SEE you, you must not be working…and 2.) Status: the big shiny office or office building has always been a corporate status symbol of "success".

    When self-directed people are trusted and given the autonomy to work from home, their productivity skyrockets because they have the freedom to schedule their day in such a way where they can give more of themselves to their work. I'm not a morning person, so showing up to a 9a.m. meeting where I was supposed to be "creative" never worked for me. Working from home, I could produce some of my best projects working at 10p.m. at night, when my in-office colleagues were sleeping, because I naturally hit my stride later in the day. People aren't all the same, therefore, putting everyone on the same 9 to 5 schedule, working in the same office, in the same cubicles, and expecting the same output from everyone is a ludicrous idea. It's time to cater to people's individual strengths, emphasize autonomy, and move into the virtual workforce.

  11. Lol one of the main messages I got from this was that a-lot of people want to be able to drink (with implied moderation) at work

  12. In order to gather more intrinsic motivation we need to balance the following things:
    1. competence motivation vs fear of failure
    2. performance motivation vs anxiety
    3. balance in interest, discovery and inductive learning (your own activity to understand a problem) vs extrinsic reward
    4. self-realization vs Identity diffusion (identity-confusion)

    Anxiety is the biggest enemy of intrinsic motivation, when you have to do things vs when you enjoy doing things. That's why those with the largest rewards performed the worst.
    Anxiety causes difficulty in handling information and abstraction and weakens intellectual functions.

  13. "people who do cognitive jobs actually become lazier for more money……." — Federal Reserve Bank

    I learned the Federal Reserve is all operated on the concept of psychology…. not making billionaires by reduced wages.

  14. "People who want to do things they enjoy do it better than people who don't." Maybe 9 year olds would be surprised by this but adults never, the fact that people liking to do stuff that feels meaningful to them is considered surprising is dumbfounding.

  15. It is true that motivation usually appears in houses and workplaces because there have tasks that you need to complete, so it forces you to be motivated.
    Also, the motivation can be anything. It depends on your culture, ethic, moral, structure of your life and other since it influences you to make decisions. I believe that if the motivation does not exist today, then we would not have successful goals. It is the key for us to keep commitment to complete your goals. I truly believe that money does not keep us motivating. Normally, you have goals, which make you to motivate to success. To be clarified, you want to motivate for the money, then you should live with the money without spending. That is silly to motivate for the money or the money makes us motivating.

  16. Masterminding a single purpose. Facebook has this model for their employees. It comes across as cultish and more than a little frightening.

  17. Sir, you are humbly requested to kindly slow your pace and reduce your drawing as it created lot of mental clutter while seeing your video.

  18. From what i understand, thing motivates us is that we want to do meaningful things. So i think grades are not the mastery because each ones will have some subject at school they love and some they hate.

  19. No puedo creer que enserio tenga que hacer una actividad sobre esto, no entiendo ni un carajo, pinche profesora Eliana no ayuda un poquito siquiera, Aguante English Dot Works 4

  20. I am not an English expert, because it is my second language, but I do believe organizations is with "z" rather than "s"

  21. This is a great concept but in the real world not everyone can have a job where the work environment is enjoyable and fun. A few companies get this but the key word there is few.

  22. unconditional basic Income (UBI) kindly compensates all work without pay
    but banks and Int. Finance will tend to sabotage UBI to keep being in control

  23. Have you imagined that someone will help you to automate the onboarding process with an unusual, inspiring way? This service giving that amazing tool, you may easily build your own onboarding academy. Copy and open CASE .XCOURSE .XYZ and watch like academy helped other business to engage employees and save 192 hours labor per month.

  24. dude, thie video like me too much, and i want to subscribe, the problem is that i'm from Colombia (i speak spanish) and translate the subtitle it's very tedious. can you put on subtitles in spanish?

  25. You can still think of people as motivated by carrots. You just have to acknowledge that we've been feeding people the wrong type of carrots.

  26. I thought all that nonsense about humans being profit maximizers was discredited (homo economics) but this guy stills seems to wanna hold onto it toward the end of the video.

  27. If you boil this down, Pink is really suggesting socialism. He makes some valid points, but he doesn't consider the reasons why the people who are paid more may perform less. What he is suggesting will never become a reality.

  28. Would you link the MIT study please. Also wondering if anyone know if these studies have been replicated in different types of fields. There may be differences in how motivation works in people that are drawn to technical development than people drawn to other fields.

    For workplaces that lack these highly trained people (who likely trust what they are capable of) implementing this strategy could be disastrous.

    I love the idea of the more spiritual purpose driven motive. There’s a huge challenge trying to create a system where this would work on a wider scale though. It needs to start in kindergarten. We need to figure out how to change the system and people’s beliefs about the system so we don’t continue breaking the kids natural drive and creative thinking abilities.

  29. The claim " higher rewards leads to lower performance" sounds too far-fetched to me. The point here seems to be that we like to do things that are meaningful, this will motivate and drive us regardless the rewards. This is completely different from the message they want to pass, as if people underperform because there's a high reward for the best performance… not convinced at all.

  30. I hated this stupid video when they said ''weird socialist conspiracy'', and animator describing human curiosity and our passions as economically irrational behavior. Well, nobody is surprised about what you claim to be 'discovered'.

  31. Wait, did he really think you can't be an economist and a socialist!? lol. socialism is an economic theory, just like capitalism.

  32. People are saying this video is great but to be honest I'm not getting all that much out of it.

    I had a hard time following this video… When they offered people 3 different rewards, did they ask all of them to do the same task and were all of them being asked to do the best they can? And if yes.. they are trying to say that the people who were offered more money did worse on the EXACT SAME TASK as someone who was offered less???

    An example of what the people who were being offered incentives were actually asked to do, the performance required and the differences between what each was asked of would help. Actual examples. I am so confused.

  33. It is fantastic to express what motivates us.yes Autonomy,Mastery and purpose.Autonomy make our own world where we can do anything without any obstacle.In the end of the video I have got if we make more fun,collaborate environment in our working place,it motive our employee .

  34. Frederik Taylor in his book Principles of Scientific Management touches on this same topic. He says it is not good for a man to get rich too fast.

  35. What are you saying ?? You had the Idea in 1983 on the Open Source Movemeent ?? But I came from the Free Software Movement that existed since the 70's, and it's nothing to do with salary, but with Hippie movement ….

  36. Eonomics – the problem, not the solution.
    Increasing the proft becomes the motive not making a good, useful product.

    BTW the 1993 business model sounds like open source that was already a thing back then. Actually open source wasn't a thing then, but Free Software was, which was the model in 1993 when that idea got BIG.

    We do it because we like doing it well – my boss won't let me do a good job, but opensource projects value me doing a good job.

  37. Drive: A need state energized by
    stimulus deprivation (no food), stimulus apprehension (thinking about male or
    female protuberances), or dread (forgetting one's anniversary) that gets you
    going, but doesn't tell you where. When coupled with cognition, ignites
    something called behavior (e.g., raiding the refrigerator, flirting, making
    excuses to wife), and when defined as combined becomes undefined, such as
    consciousness, free will, and 'about last night'.

    from Dr. Mezmer’s Dictionary of Bad
    Psychology, at

  38. I challenge the brilliant minds out there to find a way to reclaim and reuse or eliminate all the plastics that mankind is polluting our earth with. Is there no multi billionaire brainiac out there who would be willing to put out a challenge and cash backing so that some undiscovered genius could accomplish this task?

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