Understanding Dan Pink’s “Motivation 3.0″

March 15, 2013

By William Seidman

In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,  Dan Pink outlines three meaningful motivators: purpose, mastery and autonomy. He calls these three “Motivation 3.0.”

The first component of Motivation 3.0 is a sense of purpose—the social good that gives work meaning. Purpose is about creating social value—doing something for others, something that goes well beyond you as an individual. Purpose is what makes some people love to get up in the morning and meet the challenges of the day. Purpose converts a job into a vocation.

The second component of Motivation 3.0 is mastery. Most people want to be really good at their jobs, particularly when they have a compelling purpose. However, many people resist striving for a greater purpose because they don’t believe they are good enough and can’t see a path to achieving mastery. People will work hard to achieve mastery only when they have a compelling purpose and believe they can achieve it.

The third component of Motivation 3.0 is autonomy. People like to have control over their work and their environment; they resent interference from others. Being in control is a powerful motivator.

However, in most organizations, autonomy must be earned. It’s usually granted only to those who are aligned in purpose and demonstrate mastery of their jobs. When organizations try to grant autonomy without aligning purpose and providing a path to mastery, the executive team spends a lot of time wondering if people are really contributing to the purpose and if the results will be good for them and the organization. It is hard for a company to give employees autonomy and responsibility for doing their jobs without the knowledge that they are aligned on purpose and great at their jobs.

In contrast, granting autonomy is a natural and simple process once it has been earned. It is easy to give people autonomy when they are deeply committed to the common purpose and really good at what they do. Earned autonomy is a tremendous motivator.

Overall, providing people with a great vision of a higher purpose and showing them the path to become masterful are key ingredients to creating an autonomous and responsible workforce.

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