What We're Into: Self-Motivation & Work As Play


At Connect the Grey, we're concerned with making business work better for people and planet. A key part of that is considering how people are motivated to use their labor and talents, and how they're prompted to be creative on the job. According to Daniel Pink, who wrote the 2009 book Drive, it's essential to change the way people are motivated as the type of work they do evolves.
Pink explains that we are in a third phase of motivating people: Motivation 3.0. Motivation 1.0 was simply the biological imperative: Do what is necessary to secure food, shelter, and sex. Motivation 2.0, which reached its peak with the Industrial Revolution, was the classic "carrot and stick" system of punishment and reward: Reward desirable behavior to see it increase, and punish undesirable behavior to get it to stop. Motivation 2.0 is extrinsic, Pink explains  those punishments and rewards are external, not self-driven. That kind of motivation works for tasks that are algorithmic, in which a rote set of steps is followed to achieve a standard goal. But as more and more work becomes heuristic  requiring creative problem-solving  we need to shift to Motivation 3.0, which is intrinsic and fueled by enjoyment of the task itself.
Traditional management and ideas about motivation assume that work is inherently unenjoyable, something that people have to be made to do through systems of control. Motivation 3.0 recognizes that work can be incredibly satisfying and stimulating. Autonomy is central to people's ability to be self-driven and creative. When people have the freedom to be flexible and work on what interests them, they are not only more engaged overall, but often develop novel ideas that wouldn't have been possible as part of their regular duties.
Drive offers examples of companies who have encouraged employees to devote a percentage of their time to open-ended side projects. Though the concept has continued to be fruitful in recent years, it's been around for decades  as early as the 1940s, 3M president and chairman William McKnight was advocating for "experimental doodling" and advised, "Hire good people, and leave them alone." 3M's policy of allowing its employees to spend 15 percent of their time working on side projects led to the creation of the Post-it note by scientist Art Fry. While the spark of inspiration came during choir practice, when he recognized a need for a bookmark that could stick in the pages of his hymnal, the idea to use a weak adhesive to develop a removable bookmark was a product of 3M’s 15 percent time. His bookmarks ultimately became the sticky notes that are now used daily in many workplaces. 
Connect the Grey is committed to offering autonomy internally: Our foundational values include initiative and balance, and we are built on the goal of providing sustainable work for individuals by allowing them ample time and autonomy to pursue their own art, inventions, travel, entrepreneurial ventures, and more. Our programming also includes opportunities for other businesses to test drive the benefits of greater autonomy and activities that stimulate creativity. The Explorations series allows people to step into ways of thinking — for example, kayaking on a river or visiting an art gallery  that can recharge them and inform their on-the-job duties.
For more on Drive and more recent resources from Daniel Pink, visit his website