TED Talk 4 for Nov7: The puzzle of motivation by Daniel H Pink

I did not post anything new on 4,5and 6. Apologies.

Today, I saw the TED talk of Dan Pink on Motivation.

About Mr. Pink

Daniel H. Pink is an American author who has written five books about business, work and management. He worked as an aide to Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and from 1995 to 1997 he was chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore.As of 2012 Pink’s 2009 talk on “the surprising science of motivation” was one of the 10 most-watched TED Talks. In 2011, Thinkers50 named Pink as one of the 50 most-influential management thinkers in the world.


Mr. Pink starts off with a humourous streak in his delivery which he maintains throughout the talk. He stresses why the traditional approach of  carrot and stick is not scientific citing the remarkably simple yet thought-provoking  candle experiment.

Candle Problem (left) and Its Solution (right)

Mr. Pink explained how when the Candle Problem was given to two groups, with one group being given an incentive of 20$ for the fastest solution, and the second group begin given enough time to complete in their own pace, contrary to popular notions, the incetivised group took on an average 3.5 minutes longer than the leisure group. He  goes on to say how this particular experiment was not an aberration and was replicated many times for over 40 years. He says

This is one of the most robust findings in social science, and also one of the most ignored. If you look at the science, there is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.


Candle Problem for Dummies

The carrot and stick theory worked when the task given was relatively simpler, what Pink labels as Candle Problem for Dummies. He rightly points out that such dummy works are outsourced to countries (like India) while the original candle problem that requires some creativity is being performed on a daily basis in North America, Western Europe and parts of Asia. The C&S works only when job is simple and focussed having no need for applying thought into the problem at hand.

If-then rewards work really well where there is a simple set of rules and a clear destination to go to. Rewards, by their very nature, narrow our focus, concentrate the mind; that’s why they work in so many cases. And so, for tasks like this, a narrow focus, where you just see the goal right there, zoom straight ahead to it, they work really well. But for the real candle problem, you don’t want to be looking like this. The solution is not over here. The solution is on the periphery. You want to be looking around. That reward actually narrows our focus and restricts our possibility.

He goes on to explain another experiment conducted in MIT and later in namma Madurai!

Dan Ariely, one of the great economists of our time, he and three colleagues, did a study of some MIT students. They gave these MIT students a bunch of games, games that involved creativity, and motor skills, and concentration. And the offered them, for performance, three levels of rewards: small reward, medium reward, large reward.

As long as the task involved only mechanical skill bonuses worked as they would be expected: the higher the pay, the better the performance. But one the task called for even rudimentary cognitive skill, a larger reward led to poorer performance.

Then the same team went to Madurai, India where standard of living is lower and  a reward that is modest in North American standards is more meaningful. The experiment was repeated.

People offered the medium level of rewards did no better than people offered the small rewards. But this time, people offered the highest rewards, they did the worst of all. In eight of the nine tasks we examined across three experiments, higher incentives led to worse performance.

Pink repeats that what business does is not aligned with what science tells. In this time of economic uncertainty, what we need is not more of such wrong approaches but correct approaches so that high performance can be delivered by creative minds. He explains what the good approach which revolves around the desire to do something because that something mattes to us, that something is interesting, and important to us.

And to my mind, that new operating system for our businesses revolves around three elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

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 do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

He rightly points out how the  concept of Management is something that we invented like, say, Television and not a tree which is natural.

Traditional notions of management are great if you want compliance. But if you want engagement, self-direction works better.

He gives some striking examples of self-direction.

Atlassian is an Australian software company. And they do something incredibly cool. A few times a year they tell their engineers, “Go for the next 24 hours and work on anything you want, as long as it’s not part of your regular job. Work on anything you want.” So that engineers use this time to come up with a cool patch for code, come up with an elegant hack. Then they present all of the stuff that they’ve developed to their teammates, to the rest of the company, in this wild and wooly all-hands meeting at the end of the day. That one day of intense autonomy has produced a whole array of software fixes that might never have existed.

The 20  Percent Time done, famously, at Googleis another example. Engineers can work, spend 20 percent of their time working on anything they want. They have autonomy over their time, their task, their team, their technique. Radical amounts of autonomy. And at Google, as many of you know, about half of the new products in a typical year are birthed during that 20 Percent Time: things like Gmail, Orkut, Google News.

Another example is  something called the Results Only Work Environment, the ROWE, created by two American consultants, in place at about a dozen companies around North America. In a ROWE people don’t have schedules. They show up when they want. They don’t have to be in the office at a certain time,  or any time. They just have to get their work done. How they do it, when they do it, where they do it, is totally up to them. Meetings in these kinds of environments are optional. What happens? Almost across the board, productivity goes up, worker engagement goes up, worker satisfaction goes up, turnover goes down.

He destroys the notion that this is a Utopian concept by cleverly comparing Microsoft’s well edited, well-budgeted product Encarta Encyclopaedia and Wikipedia where people add details for fun, no one gets paid, and people do it because they like to do it.

He very succinctly concludes his points.

There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. And here is what science knows. One: Those 20th century rewards, those motivators we think are a natural part of business, do work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances. Two: Those if-then rewards often destroy creativity. Three: The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive — the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things cause they matter. And here’s the best part. Here’s the best part. We already know this. The science confirms what we know in our hearts. So, if we repair this mismatch between what science knows and what business does, if we bring our motivation, notions of motivation into the 21st century, if we get past this lazy, dangerous, ideology of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen our businesses, we can solve a lot of those candle problems, and maybe, maybe, maybe we can change the world.


TED Talk 3 – Why you will fail to have a great career – Larry Smith

I have included the relevant parts of his highly blunt  and inspiring speech which forces you to do some soul-searching.

I only want to talk to those of you who want a great career.  I know some of you have already decided  you want a good career.  Those trying to have good careers are going to fail,  because, really, good jobs are now disappearing. There are great jobs and great careers, and then there are the high-workload, high-stress, bloodsucking, soul-destroying kinds of jobs, and practically nothing in between. I’m going to talk about those looking for great jobs, great careers, and why you’re going to, why you’re going to fail. First reason is that no matter how many times people tell you, “If you want a great career, you have to pursue your passion, you have to pursue your dreams, you have to pursue,the greatest fascination in your life,” you hear it again and again and then you decide not to do it. I’m not quite sure why you decide not to do it. You’re too lazy to do it. It’s too hard. You’re afraid if you look for your passion and don’t find it, you’ll feel like you’re an idiot.

So, for example, one of your great excuses is, “Well, great careers are really and truly, for most people, just a matter of luck, so I’m going to stand around, I’m going to try to be lucky, and if I’m lucky, I’ll have a great career. If not, I’ll have a good career.” But a good career is an impossibility, so that’s not going to work. But a good career is an impossibility, so that’s not going to work. Then, your other excuse is, “Yes, there are special people who pursue their passions, but they are geniuses. They are Steven J. I’m not a genius. ”

And then, of course, another excuse: “Well, I would do this, I would do this, but, but, well, after all, I’m not weird. Everybody knows that people who pursue their passions are somewhat obsessive. A little strange? Mm? Mm? Okay? You know, a fine line between madness and genius. I’m not weird. I’ve read Steven J.’s biography. Oh my goodness. I am not that person. I am nice. I am normal. I’m a nice, normal person, and nice, normal people   don’t have passion.

But I still want a great career. Mommy and Daddy told me that if I worked hard,  I’d have a good career. So, if you work hard and have a good career, if you work really, really, really hard, you’ll have a great career. Doesn’t that, like,  mathematically make sense?”

Passion is your greatest love.  Passion is the thing that will help you create  the highest expression of your talent. Passion, interest — it’s not the same thing. What you want, what you want, what you want, is passion. It is beyond interest. You need 20 interests, and then one of them, one of them might grab you, one of them might engage you more than anything else, and then you may have found your greatest love in comparison to all the other things that interest you, and that’s what passion is.

You must look for alternatives  so that you find your destiny, or are you afraid of the word “destiny”? Does the word “destiny” scare you? That’s what we’re talking about, and if you don’t find     the highest expression of your talent, if you settle for “interesting,” what the hell ever that means, do you know what will happen at the end of your long life? Your eulogy will read  “He was a distinguished engineer who invented Velcro.” But what that eulogy should have told in an  alternative lifetime, is “Here lies the last Nobel Laureate in Physics, who formulated the Grand Unified Field Theory and demonstrated the practicality of warp drive.”

I love  the way he has ended the speech like a Nolan movie’s climax. He makes us think about what we should do so that will achieve a great success.

I will complete my unless –

“Unless I do not waste my time and study really well instead of being lazy”
– As simple as that.

TED Talk 2 – Why 30s are NOT the new 20s by Meg Jay

  • 30s are not the new 20s though people settle late. 20s are not a developmental down time, but it makes it a developmental sweet spot.
  • Claiming your 20s might be the simplest yet most transformative for work, love happiness and may be even for the world.
  • 80% of life’s most defining moments happen by the age 35, i.e. 8 out of 10 decisions, experiences,AHA- moments that make your life what it is will happen by 30.
    • 1st 10 years of your career  has an exponential  impact  on how much money you earn
    • You know your life partners.
    • 20s is the time when maximum change in personality happens.
    • The brain caps off its second and last growth spurt in your 20s as it rewires itself for adulthood.
      • Which means whatever you want to change, now is the time to change it.
    • 20s  is the time to educate about your options.
  • Similar to child development, there is something called Adult Development which happens during our 20s.
  • 20s is *the* defining decade in our life.
  • When a lot of goals has been pushed into the 30s there is lot of pressure to jump-start a career, pick a city, select a life partner,and these tasks are incompatible and harder and stressful to do all a t once in the 30s.
  • When we realise later on, that we can’t have that career we wanted  we find our-selves in a mid-life crisis.
  •  Too many 30-somethings and 40-somethings look at themselves and say about their 20s, ‘What was I doing? What was I thinking?’
  •  So what can 20-somethings do? They can own their adulthood.
  • They can invest in identity capital—courses, skills, friends—that add value toward who they might want to be.
  • They can work on building a wide social network, instead of a tightknit one that doesn’t allow for outside opportunities.
  • Identity capital begets identity capital.
  • The 20s self-exploration is not exploration, it is actually procrastination.
  •  Twenty-somethings are like airplanes, just taking off from Chennai heading for somewhere east. A slight change in course on takeoff is the difference between landing in Andaman Islands or Australia. Likewise one good conversation, one good break or even a Ted Talk will have an enormous change.

TED Talk 1 – Try something new for 30 days by Matt Cutts


About Matt Cutts :

Matt Cutts works on search at Google, specializing in search optimization. He’s a friendly and public face for helping webmasters understand how Google’s search actually works, making hundreds of videos that answer questions about SEO. (SearchEngineLand made this handy chart of all of them.) He’s an advocate for cutting down on poor practice such as link spam. He also wrote the first version of SafeSearch, Google’s family filter.

Here Ted Talks about his 30  Day Challenge. How He formed a habit for 30 days and which later on changed his personality. For instance him, like me, (or at least that is what I would like to believe) was not very adventurous. But the 30 Day challenge gave him enough impetus to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro later on! Pretty cool huh?! So , I decided to do the same and I have listed a few 30 Day Challenge task for myself as I would have published in the first post. Let me see if this pans out the way I wish to.