In his book Drive, Daniel Pink discusses a need for an upgrade from our current “carrot and stick” Motivation 2.0 to a style which includes autonomy, mastery and purpose or Motivation 3.0. He helps us understand certain desires and innate characteristics born in all of us. These characteristics motivate us to perform at our highest level as we create in and explore our world.
The word autonomy originated in the 1620’s from the Greek autonomos “independent, living by one’s own laws,” from the combination of auto- “self” and nomos “custom, law.”
The common theme in several studies, is autonomy. Pink doesn’t describe autonomy as chaotic, but one of self structure. Structure over ones time, the team they work with, the tasks they take on, and the techniques they use for completing assigned tasks. He cites several studies, among which is the development of the wonderful Post-it note. This product was discovered total by accident, during a time of company sanctioned exploration. It has now over 600 variations in over 100 countries. it all came about through the desire for 3M scientist to use 15% of their work week on projects outside their normal, on things of interest to them. Google likewise has had similar successful results. They chose to invest 20% of the work week, typically one day, to tasks or ideas which interest their programmers. Again, outside the normal tasks, with very similar results. A phenomenal result among many, is Google’s gmail.
Seth Goden captures the essence of autonomy when he states, “As an entrepreneur, I’m blessed with 100% autonomy over task, time, technique and team. Here’s the thing: If I maintain that autonomy, I fail. I fail to ship. I fail to excel. I fail to focus. I inevitably end up either with no product or a product the market rejects. The art of autonomy is picking your limits. That’s the autonomy I most cherish, the freedom to pick my boundaries.”
Autonomy is just one element in the mix. Organizations are finding opportunities to improve employee engagement through a combination of autonomy, mastery and purpose. We’ll look at Daniel’s thoughts around these other two area over the next two post.