Are you indispensable?
Seth Godin’s new book, Linchpin, launches today. And like all of Seth’s work, this one will rattle your neurons and rouse your heart.
As part of his effort to spark conversations, he’s interviewed several other authors about their work — and how their ideas relate to his. Below is the interview Seth did with me on the connections between Linchpin and Drive.
GODIN: Your book Drive really got me excited. First, it’s a great book. Second, it brings up a complementary point I totally missed! The essence of the lesson, as I hear it, is that art, initiative and creativity aren’t things we do to get a reward. They are intrinsic rewards in and of themselves. Do I have that right?
PINK: Amen, Seth. Too many people harbor the misguided belief that humans are motivated solely by biological urges and by carrots-and-sticks. Those two drives matter, of course. But we’ve neglected that humans also have a *third* drive — to direct our own lives, to get better at stuff, to make a contribution. Here’s an example. This weekend somebody’s going to be practicing the clarinet — even though it won’t get him a mate (the first drive) or make him any money (the second drive.) Why is he doing that? Because it’s fun, it’s interesting, it’s meaningful. Because the act is its own reward.
GODIN: As you put it on the first page of Drive, this is a mind-blowing revelation that has been almost completely overlooked by our command-and-control factory system. In the world we grew up with, if there isn’t an extrinsic motivator (a prize, a payment or at the very least, a pat on the head) then why bother? What do you think Ayn Rand would say?
PINK: First, don’t forget that Ayn Rand herself was a novelist and screenwriter — a creator. Beyond that, I think she’d be aghast at my saying the market isn’t perfect all the time. But I think she’d see that her iconic characters — for instance, Howard Roark — were motivated by internal desires like autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
GODIN: Does this explain why people with an irresistible need to create tend to gravitate to fields where they’re almost certain to not get paid? (Stuff like poets, painters and playwrights come to mind).
PINK: I doubt it. What I think is going on is that until recently, the business world didn’t much prize people with these kinds of skills. So if you wanted to do those things, you weren’t going to get paid much. Today, these right-brain types are much more in demand. That said, there are maybe fourteen people on the planet who are going to make a living as poets. But, again, there are maybe a million who can use their talents as poets in work as teachers, copywriters, bloggers, journalists, and other professions and business centered on creation.
GODIN: Do you agree with me that every successful organization needs people like this today? Problem solvers, self-drivers, artists?
PINK: Of course. Not even a close call.
GODIN: How then do we merge the two motivations? How do we get people to bring their artist to work?
PINK: Stop treating people like horses and start treating them like human beings. Instead of trying to bribe folks with sweeter carrots or threaten them with sharpen sticks, how about giving them greater freedom at work, allowing them to get better at something they love, and infusing the workplace with a sense of purpose? If we tap that third drive more fully, we can rejuvenate our businesses and remake our world.
“Stop treating people like horses and start treating them like human beings.”
I’m in a deadend job, I really need to take some advice and get some small business going! =) I need to find a niche small company of some sort.
Howard Roark, in the Fountainhead, epitomizes what the earliest American settlers discovered that did not exist in the world at the time. It was the ability for each individual to think, imagine, create, build and change the environment with their own sweat, even disturbing the established and accepted way things were done, and without fear of punishment. That was America, and what set her apart from all other nations, as cited in Save Pebble Droppers & Prosperity at Amazon and claysamerica.com.
Those businesses that direct creativity and artistry toward their goals and mission are far ahead of those who are using the carrot and stick of 100 years ago. Workers today are far more educated and independent than workers of just 40 years ago.
OK, what if you have both a left-brain and a right-brain capability? Then you need to create businesses!!! Good post, and I totally agree that creativity has been way too underplayed and undervalued int he business world except at companies like Apple, Virgin, Cisco, 3M, and Nucor. I now have ANOTHER book I have to read!
Is it possible that that clarinet player you mentioned is practicing, because they know clarinet players a) land mates and b) earn money down the road? Perhaps our ability to plan ahead makes us uniquely able, among animals, to work toward delayed rewards? What do you think…
Detroit, MI, USA
Brian Boyd makes a compelling case in his new book, On The Origin of Stories, that we do art and play because it is good for us cognitively. He takes an evolutionary perspective on our the third drive you focus on in your book. Well worth a read.
On the ‘How do we bring artists to work?’ question:
I wonder about those who would be artists and are working in industries that discourage free thinking. How do we help employers understand the value of the artists they could already have in their offices?
I wonder if there’s a connection here between those frustrated artists and the many entrepreneurs out there who’s talent isn’t running a business but didn’t know any other way out…
Pink-i agree with you if we gave the people the freedom to do what they love and belive they will increase their production and performance.I left my job as a Marketing Executive because i didnt belive in our firm methods a way to achiive our goals.
I figure I’m completely dispensible since I’ve been dispensed with twice in six years. I do however make any place I work a better workplace, yet that does not seem to offset the value of not paying my salary to the managers.
Ironically, at both jobs I had switched temporarily from training to doing consulting and was more than paying my own way when I was laid off. At Pervasive software as I packed and said my goodbyes, many coworkers told me that they “couldn’t believe Mr. Pervasive was being let go”. At my more recent job they have called me back to do contract work because there is no one who can get up to speed to install software and create images as quickly as I can, nor would most people with those skills document it as well as a technical trainer.
“….The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories, write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” –Kurt Vonnegut
Call it endorphins. Call it “juice.” Call it the nectar of kindness, but there is a joy that is released when we love what we do and do it for the pleasure of doing it.
In sports parlance they say, “He/she loves the game. He’d play even if he wasn’t getting paid.” In medicine they say, “He/she is such a humanitarian.”
But the reality is, people dig ditches, wait tables, cut hair, fix engines, deliver mail, drive trucks, bartend, farm, and yes, join the military because they take pride in a job well done. The sad thing is this used to be the rule, not the exception. People were craftsmen, not employees. Moving from apprentice to journeyman (sound and experienced) to craftsman (brilliant, skilled journeyman) was a rite of passage and status that everyone understood.
In our rush to get rich, become an American Idol or be worshiped we’ve forgotten how to connect with each other and our work. Those pursuing that connective path we call entrepreneurs. Those walking the path we call artists. Those cutting the path we call unicorns. Those embracing the path we call Linchpins.
We’re competing on a world stage today. You are competing with people in India, China and Indonesia for your job and they will do it for a lot less. If you’re not doing something they can’t its only a matter of time…
Start creating your unique value today.
It’s all about the Arts! What an amazing world it would be if the Arts were really given the power that the Arts actually contain! Talk about “Yes We Can!
Getting good at something is very satisfying.
It’s exciting and generates enthusiasm.
Being useful is a universal human need and being indispensable is a further extension of that.
Nice work if you can get it. Or should that be
nice work if you can create it?
@David—”Is it possible that that clarinet player you mentioned is practicing, because they know clarinet players a) land mates and b) earn money down the road?”
Possible? Sure. Probably not, though.
I write music. After becoming a decent bass player I worked hard to achieve mediocrity on keyboards and guitar so I could record and perform what I write.
In my whole life, I will never earn as much money as I’ve spent on musical equipment. I don’t even try to.
And I’m already mated to the most perfect companion possible for me.
There is no benefit, zero, for me to do the work of getting better on various musical instruments, but the pure pleasure I get from the personal advancement, and the abilities I know I’ll have.
Anyone who believes that labour is driven only by either biology or sticks-n-carrots is daft, or blind.
I agree that we need more problem solvers, self-drivers and artists in companies, however we also need a lot of people to just do their jobs.
Most jobs are still about getting boring stuff done. We . We need people to clean toilets, serve our food and take out our garbage. I don’t think that there is much intrinsic motivation in that type of work. For the vast majority of the work force it is still about carrots and sticks.
From John Locke’s “pleasure or pain” to Jeremy Bentham’s “hedonistic calculus” what motivates (or dismotivates)us is truly a question for the ages!
Love your books, and all your insight!! Keep freaking writing, I need new knowledge, and your insight!.
Some of the country’s and world’s most creative people are involved in a very huge and very lucrative business: it’s called “advertising.” I think Pink’s comment about control, though, over your life (and maybe over your soul) might be what separates art from ad, that and intent. Warhol obviously blurred what we see as art, and frankly, many many ads are far more creative and interesting than lots of other creative acts (acting, music, studio art) that profess only to be creative, nothing more.
Having worked in office environments and as an educator, I find myself now drifting back to education (for now) as a day job, because, frankly, I was able to exercise far more creativity and more control over my time, and, the product of my day was clear to me and did not weigh on my conscience (as much). One person, of course, does not a stat make, but I also find the values of folks in office & business (and nonprofit & policy) often at odds with the values of folks that are creative-oriented first. Maybe the answer lies in personality-type? Some folks are creative, but driven first by monetary reward (those folks end up in adverstising) and they can play or like office politics better than those folks that are creative and want more independence in their creativity than reward.
Just as you can’t paint all creative acts with the same brush (art and ads are not the same in DNA), you can’t paint all creative people with it.
One last note, in my experience the further you get from the centers of power (finance, politics, the media, and to some extent, on a lower level, the academy) the more creative autonomy one has…
The opinion below does not reflect the official position of the US Army.
Having been a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army for over 14 years I have to agree with Mr. Pink that we must “stop treating people like horses and start treating them like human beings.”
Over the years, I have had the privilege to lead our nation’s volunteer warriors. In every organization that I have been assigned, I worked diligently to create a culture that fosters creativity and the importance that everyone contributes to the success of the organization. Meaning, I value the opinions and creativity of each Soldiers in my command-from from the lowest to the highest ranking. I discovered that Soldiers will work smarter and harder when they feel they are valued as human beings. I routinely meet with Soldiers (often without their leaders present) to recommend solutions that complete the missions faster, with fewer resources and with the desired end state in mind. This enables Soldiers to think creatively and this instills ownership and pride in themselves, their unit and their country.
Major, US Army
I don’t think that horses and dogs are motivated a lot differently than we are. In more than a decade working as a professional dog trainer I have come to realize that dogs work harder and smarter for intrinsic rewards too. Dogs get the same kind of good feelings when they succeed at a difficult task that we do and they can also reach a point where the work is its own reward. This is why stockdog trainers don’t bring treats to the field.
I just want to put it out there that I’m personally acquainted with more than 14 people who are making a living as poets! I know you were being hyperbolic, and I know it doesn’t make any actual difference to your argument, but I find the tactics a lot of them have adapted fascinating from an entrepreneurial standpoint.
“All failures – neurotics, psychotics, criminals, drunkards, problem children, suicides, perverts, and prostitutes – are failures because they are lacking in social interest”. Alfred Alder
You may find him interesting, or at least his ideas on human behavior-
Seth’a a true marketing genius, by #1 favorite book marketing specialist and thinker.
I know it takes energy, effort and strategy to put all this together, and I like how Seth and you is doing it; it looks like Squidoo makes it easy.
Any of you guys using the platform with success? I’m kind of new when it comes to its (practical) utility.
@ John Bardos said:
“We need people to clean toilets, serve our food and take out our garbage”
Definitely. But not any people. These people should be leaders and responsible in their work/job/field, regardless they’re cleaning , serving or whatever.
Someone has to teach them how to do that with a happy, positive attitude (as they’re helping others feel better, save time, etc) and more importantly — how to get creative , on how to do their task better, in less time, or more productive.
Robin Sharma and Jay Abraham (two of my favorite thinkers) advocate the personal productivity conscience, sometimes to the “extremes”.