Dan Pink has been working on a new book “Drive” about what motivates us. As an educator and system leader,  What motivates me and many of my colleagues is a desire to give young people the best opportunity in life by giving them the gift of education.

Good teachers would work for pittance and often do when they are working with a team of committed professionals who are passionate, committed and aspire to reach the same goals. This is what Pink refers to as intrinsic motivation – doing something greater than ourselves.

According to Pink, 20th century businesses and organisations work on extrinsic motivators – pay for performance, carrrot and sticks approach for 20th century tasks. It is also how governments and policy makers believe we can improve schooling….reward teachers for preparing students well for high-stakes tests.

Pink claims that scientific evidence shows that those extrinsic motivators like financial rewards narrow our focus to left-brain, mechanical tasks. When we remove extrinsic motivators from the table, we give people autonomy to move in every direction and therefore find creative solutions.

Holy Family 089Good teachers deserve an adequate and fair pay but this cannot be the carrot for motivating or punishing them. All this does is detract from the real work by making teachers compliant and schooling rigid. What’s more, it kills creativity and forces good teachers to leave the profession feeling defeated and exhausted.

If the general population were to hear less from unions and politicians linking schooling to extrinsic motivators and more from teachers about what really motivates them, then we would see the real value in education. This requires what I call a “new honesty” from the profession itself since everything has to be open to change. The past defines the present and shouldn’t be allowed to restrict the future.

It may even give us the energy to move beyond jack-in-the-box schooling (no surprises there) to something never seen before.

4 thoughts on “Motivation

  1. Interesting post that started me thinking, Greg.

    Although I agree with your comments about the power of intrinsic motivation, it is not my experience that this is enough to run a system on – as wonderful as that would be for our society. I have had many a debate about the nature of having ‘a vocation’ and quite simply, not everyone feels this way about their job. It is interesting that other professions would not really consider this viable – a percentage do volunteer in a ‘without borders’ sense – as most expect to very well paid for their ‘intrinsic’ motivation.

    Often this is called performance pay or a bonus.

    The “new honesty” may have some unexpected challenges, Greg.

  2. This is right on the money. The enjoyment of the job is everything. I have no idea of my fortnightly salary, but what motivates me is the challenges of getting the best out of teachers and hearing the kids. As a leader this post has made me think about not letting those external influences filter through to staff. Good stuff Greg.

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