excursion by Daniel Pink – Book Review

excursion by Daniel Pink – Book Review

Most people don’t understand what makes me tick at work. I’ll use untold hours writing articles or my newsletter. Or I’ll be Twittering away, connecting with possible clients, business partners, and just plain interesting “tweeple.” And then there’s a continuous round of in-person networking meetings and events. “Don’t you ever sleep?” is a shared comment I hear. Why am I so pushed? Because I’m having a blast!

seemingly my work situation is not rare as we learn in Daniel H. Pink’s book excursion: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

As Pink explains, the first human excursion, like all other animals, is for survival. Our second excursion, what he calls Motivation 2.0 which is determined by both rewards and punishment, is also shared by the animal kingdom. But only humans have been able to channel that motivation to build buildings, organizations, and so much more. Motivation 2.0 has been in place for a very long time, so long, that it is just a part of who we are. But that system is breaking.

Extrinsic, classical rewards and punishment such as money, benefits and fear of losing our jobs are no longer working as before. People are clamoring to participate, without pay, in open source projects such as online encyclopaedia Wikipedia and operating system Linux. Some states now offer entrepreneurs the ability to set up an L3C (low-profit, limited liability corporation) organization which operates as a for-profit business, but with modest profits, whose main goal is to provide social benefits. Granted, Wikipedia and Linux contributors may add to these projects to build their reputation or public relations efforts. L3C organizations may be trying to do the same. But at the heart of all is their desire to add something to the world or to do something for the sheer enjoyment of it, or “flow.” Welcome to the world of Motivation 3.0, the world in which inherent rewards rule what we do and what we get out of what we do. We have become, what Pink calls Theory I–for intrinsically motivated–workers.

As a Theory I worker myself, I definitely appreciate this new paradigm. However, many of my clients and friends are in trades and industries for which Motivation 3.0 is a distant future. How do you find an intrinsically motivated plumber, garbage collector or cafeteria worker? already more tricky is how do you serve your customers who are expecting someone to fix their leaking toilet, pick up the trash, or collect payment for lunch if your workers are doing only what allows them to experience flow?

To answer some of these questions, Pink indicates that for some mundane responsibilities, classical carrots-and-sticks rewards may be necessary if the work cannot be outsourced or automated. This is going to be meaningful for some industries. More and more responsibilities, already complicate mechanical ones, can be automated. I see this as the way that many blue collar and laborer kind jobs may be able to change to a Motivation 3.0 future, freeing up time for these workers to pursue responsibilities that provide them creativity, freedom, challenge, purpose, and novelty.

Quoting Richard Ryan, Pink also indicates providing these transitioning employees “scaffolding” to help them find their place in the Motivation 3.0 future which combines autonomy with accountability. This is a enormous shift in mindset and it will take years, maybe decades, to realize in my opinion. The reason it will is because training to be a Theory I worker begins in school, and, as Pink notes, our schools are woefully bad at engaging and motivating our next generations, instead concentrating on test scores and rote learning without relevance. Additionally, schools are continuing to cut programs such as art, music and gym which can give students the opportunity to expand their horizons and find activities that bring more inherent rewards.

While Pink’s outlook on moving toward Motivation 3.0 seems optimistic, though not without challenges, I think the reality of moving toward this ideal is going to seem almost impossible for industries where creativity is not valued. My fear is that like empowerment initiatives which can lapse into shifting of responsibility and blame to employees who truly have no strength or ability to affect outcomes, Motivation 3.0 initiatives could become the next much maligned business concept.

But it all needs to start somewhere. Asking questions of yourself and your company is where it begins. excursion offers readers an excellent list of questions to help both individuals and employers start thinking about a Motivation 3.0 future. Thought it amusing that one of Pink’s questions asks if you think his view is too rosy and utopian. But it is a fair question that you really do need to ask in relation to how this concept fits into your organization.

Implementation of Motivation 3.0 principles will be challenging in many organizations, particularly those which have organized labor. Any inherent reward responsibilities and developmental activities will have to become a part of the labor contract. But then does that defeat the purpose of these responsibilities and just add more issues to arbitrate?

excursion is sure to become a meaningful addition to the enlightened employment literature and is recommended reading for anyone in leadership roles or those who want to get more enjoyment out of their life and work.

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