Carrots and Sticks – Why contingent motivators don’t work

Daniel Pink’s engaging TED talk on ‘The surprising science of motivation’ poses a compelling case on the mismatch of what science knows and what business does. In order to achieve ’21st century tasks’ businesses cannot base their policies about talent and people on assumptions that are outdated. Thus the bigger carrot or the sharper stick do nothing more than restrict possibility in this new age of business. The focus needs to be around intrinsic motivators.

A bit about carrots and sticks and when they can work. These contingent motivators work when there is a simple set of rules and a clear destination. Narrow focus = low creativity. When carrots and sticks don’t work: When there are periphery or non obvious solutions. The reward only narrows the focus.

Daniel Pink summarizes the new operating system to motivation by three essential building blocks as the new way of doing things:

Autonomy – the urge to direct our own lives
Mastery – the desire to get better and better at something that matters
Purpose-the yearning to do what we in service of something larger than ourselves.

People do things because they are a part of something. So if you want high performance and employee engagement, you will probably agree that self direction works better.

Are you part of a company built upon carrots or sticks or does a greater purpose exist for you and your team?

Daniel Pink on the surprising science of motivation:

~ Sarah McNeill


4 responses to “Carrots and Sticks – Why contingent motivators don’t work

  1. For some strange reason, I am now craving carrot sticks…

  2. I’m listening to “Drive” the audiobook of his book on the subject. It’s very interesting so far and his thoughts truly fly in the face of traditional approaches to motivation. The most compelling bit I’ve *read* so far has to do with how “carrots” can actually demotivate and reduce performance over time.

  3. Pingback: The surprising truth about what motivates us « WOW. FUN. PEOPLE.

  4. Enjoyed your post. Thought that you might be interested in a book that just came out: “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work” by McGraw-Hill

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