Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


One of the Worst Things You Can Inflict Upon Me Is Boredom

I have a confession to make: I am a Youth Services Librarian who at my core hates Summer Reading Club, Teen Read Week, National Library Week, and all of our other special events that attempt to coerce people into reading with special incentives. If you're not reading because you love reading, you're doing it for the wrong reasons, the enterprise is sullied, and chances are you won't do it again without more incentives. I don't feel it's my job to get people to read; it's my job to help people discover they enjoy reading. Extrinsic incentives detract from that purpose.

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink transfers this general idea of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation from the library and applies it to the world of work. Just as I hope to help people realize reading is an enjoyable pursuit for the journey, he hopes to help people create workplace management dynamics that make the daily grind of employment rewarding, meaningful, and pleasant.

- Jessica Hagy, at Indexed

Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and . . . Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.
- Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Sawyer Effect: A weird behavioral alchemy inspired by the scene in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in which Tom and friends whitewash Aunt Polly's fence. This effect has two aspects. The negative: Rewards can turn play into work. The positive: Focusing on mastery can turn work into play.
- Daniel Pink, Drive

INTJ’s are very self-motivated, drawn to working autonomously, and often do their best work when simply left to their own devices to undertake a particular project or task. They do not need to be, or enjoy being, watched over closely or micro-managed. Some say that the INTJ is the most independent of all of the 16 types [of the MBTI].

I have to admit my bias--as you might have guessed from my introduction--as I attempt to review Drive: I am and always have been at the extreme intrinsic end of the motivation continuum. I'm not even sure I "get" extrinsic motivation, and most of the time my reaction to someone attempting to motivate me with sticks and carrots is either resentful dismissal or outright resistance. I want nothing to do with it. So I don't find "The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" described in this book so surprising, but instead so fundamentally commonsensical that I wonder why it's even necessary to write a book about it. It's tempting to make my review a simple one-word, "Duh!"

On the other hand, I know I'm different than many--perhaps most--people, and am grateful that Pink has made the effort to articulate these ideas in a useful way and worked to make them relevant to the world of work. Because the need for a better management style most definitely exists in way too many workplaces, schools, and lives in general. For instance, I know of an organization that recently had its managers read this book and discuss it, and still started with the discussion with the question, "How can we motivate staff?" despite Pink's inclusion of the following quote in the book: The questions so many people ask--namely, "How do I motivate people to learn? to work? to do their chores? or to take their medicine?"--are the wrong questions. They are wrong because they imply that motivation is something that gets done to people rather than something that people do. Even when wanting to learn from the book, they were so entrenched in the traditional workplace motivational models that they seemed to not quite get the point. Extrinsic, stick-and-carrot motivation is such an institutionalized habit, that even with the convincing case made by this book it will be hard for many to change.

And here's where my bias makes it hard for me to write a good review. I'd like to say Pink makes a convincing case, but I don't really know since I was already convinced before I read his book and could only nod in agreement the entire time. I enjoyed the book and hope to go back and dwell in some of the specifics for greater insight, but I'm not sure I learned enough from it for it to have been worth my time. Still, I think the message needs to spread and I must recommend it, because I think the world will be a better place if more people adopt his recommendations. More people will find that middle place in Hagy's diagram, will find more play at work the way Twain describes, if more workplaces learn the lessons in this book and shift to a model of encouraging intrinsic motivation instead of merely relying on extrinsic.

One final illustration to prove the point that the wrong motivation and context can take the fun out of absolutely anything (mildly mature content warning; nsfw):


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