“There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.”

The quote is from Dan Pink’s TED talk, “The puzzle of motivation.” It’s from August, 2009. He later went on to publish an excellent book on the topic, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

The more I research how to make work more effective and fulfilling, the more it’s clear that “science knows.” We hit management with study after study after study, and business doesn’t budge.

Science knows that psychological safety is the most important factor for successful teams, yet we work in environments that are designed for internal competition, hierarchical control, and fear.

Science knows we need focus and attention to do meaningful work, yet we work in environments designed for interruptions, where people check their email 36 times an hour

Even intuitively, we know. Parodies of the modern workplace go viral. The mismatch is funny because it’s true. ("A conference call in real-life" has 13 million views.) We shake our heads and laugh, but we're left with a tragic waste of human and organizational potential.

Here’s an extended excerpt from Dan Pink’s clear and compelling talk. What do you think it would take to “repair the mismatch”? Working Out Loud is one kind of change program that can help fix organizations. It will take more. What’s one other thing that might help?

“What worries me, as we stand here in the rubble of the economic collapse, is that too many organizations are making their decisions, their policies about talent and people, based on assumptions that are outdated, unexamined, and rooted more in folklore than in science. And if we really want to get out of this economic mess, if we really want high performance on those definitional tasks of the 21st century, the solution is not to do more of the wrong things, to entice people with a sweeter carrot, or threaten them with a sharper stick. We need a whole new approach.
The good news is that the scientists who've been studying motivation have given us this new approach. It's built much more around intrinsic motivation. Around the desire to do things because they matter, because we like it, they're interesting, or part of something important. 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. These are the building blocks of an entirely new operating system for our businesses…
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…
The science confirms what we know in our hearts. So, if we repair this mismatch between science and business, 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…maybe, maybe -- we can change the world.”