Dan Pink on Creativity and Motivation (TED & Better Life)

Sep 01

Dan Pink, the author of A Whole New Mind, was recently on TED with an 18-minutes version of his book. He talked about creativity and motivation in the workplace. Very interesting stuff.

Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.

More on Dan Pink (from TED’s website):

More of Dan Pink from Better Life (55 minutes):

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TODAY’S CHALLENGE: Aside from the methods mentioned in the clip (Atlassian’s FedEx Days, Google 20/80, etc), if you were the CEO of a company, or to manage other people in any working environment, what creative method can you come up with, to tap into employees’ intrinsic motivation? We’re looking for short, simple, smart, clear, and positive ideas that can be incorporated into any working environment.


  1. Arian S /

    I think Mr. Pink’s strategy is great for jobs that require high levels of creativity. As he mentioned himself when the answer is straight forward and what supposed to be done is obvious, then bouneses and other incentives are effective and still motivating for employees. Although for company’s like Google I think crativity is number one objective to stay in the competition. Giving employees free time (to think out side of company’s rules and regulation) can greatly help the company to see different ideas to further improve as a whole which in return could favor all the employees too.

  2. marc fernandez /

    My solution to boost intrinsic motivation is a little off the wall. but i find that my best ideas come to me when i am relaxed or about to sleep. Studies have also shown that visualizing something over and over can be just as beneficial as practicing something over and over. So to boost motivation i would have a portion of my employee’s time dedicated to relaxation, in which you would enter a relaxed environment and think about the problems we need to attack. I think in a relaxed state our mind is free to wander and we are able to think of out of the box solutions to everyday tasks. Its sort of like those sensory deprivation tanks that let your mind go free due to the lack of senses.

  3. Hershel Will /

    I really enjoyed the video of Dan Pink because of the illustration he used with the candles. It really helped me understand how the mind works, and its thoughts process. This video is extremely helpful because it helps expand our creativity and thought process. I would recommend anyone who is thinking of opening a business, or has management responsibilities watch this video. I also learned a lot from the sevond video with Abundance, Asia, and Automation One thing that stood out is that price margins are based off significance not utility. Thiese videos were very informational and should be watched by college students and people in the work enviroment

  4. Both the videos and Dan Pink were very motivational and inspiring. The part where he used the toilet bowl cleaner and fly swatter i immediately connected with my hobbies; using the right brain abilities to make my actions in break dancing more desirable and appealing. FedEx days and 20/80′s are creative ways that those two companies have invented to enhance their employees’ intrinsic motivation. Though both seem to be along the same lines of each other, they both depend on working on something not work related and being able to ‘play’ as Dan Pink would say. I feel that the only way to tap into employee’s intrinsic motivation is also to allow them to play. As a CEO of any company I would definitely use the ROWE management strategy and hopefully have a few gatherings with all the employees at least once a month to help promote a better working environment for everyone. I feel that if everyone is comfortable and acquainted with each other, going to work everyday would be more like going somewhere to play instead.

  5. Christian Luna /

    I found the scientific research stated in the TED video by Dan Pink very intriguing. I was surprised to learn the fact that most of the time, a larger reward sparks less of a creative flow in an individual rather than a medium or small reward. With that in mind, I want to optimize creativity in the workplace by having on-going contests through out the year that offer only small prizes such as movie tickets, coffee mugs, coupons for restaurants etc. These small prizes, while not so flashy and news-worthy, will definitley spark a creative flow in employees while keeping more of the creativity in play.

  6. Loretta Tsang /

    If I were a CEO of a company and I wanted to create intrinsic motivation for all my employees, I would first make the working environment a comfortable and relaxing place to be so that the workers will actually want to come to work instead of dreading their work and their work atmosphere. I would cut down some rules such as dress code since most people don’t like being told what restrictions they must have on clothes. Also, this sense of autonomy will allow their creativeness to come out more since creative juices flow best when one is comfortable in their own skin.

  7. Tri H. Le /

    I’d like to begin by re-iterating some of the ideas mentioned above. I think everyone has some wonderful ideas on how to encourage and facilitate employees’ intrinsic motivation. These ideas include open, bright/warm, and colorful work atmposheres, casual dress code, no formal work schedule, no deadlines, optional work meetings, open forum discussions, and social gatherings and much, much more that I have not mentioned. All these ideas seem to have the same goal: to create work environment that least resembles work, or if you will, a “work-free” environment. The aim of creating an fun environment, that is radically different from your standard, formal definiton of work would hopefully produce intrinsically motivated employees.

    If I was a CEO one idea that I would incorporate (in addition to the other ones previously discussed) would be to have large, blank, white-erase board (relative to the office size, the larger the office the larger the board/wall) that would allow everyone to express and write down their ideas and thoughts. What I’m hoping here is that small ideas can turn into big and great ideas with the collaboration and efforts of everyone in the workplace. I hope my suggestion revolves around the same theme and direction of a “work-free” environment and yield a higher standard of productivity, happiness, and provide plenty of intrinsically motivational factors to employees.

  8. Arian Sharifi /

    I think Mr. Pink’s idea of not using the current trend (bouneses and incentives) to motivate employees is great for companies that require high levels of creativity. As he mentioned himself when the answer is straightfroward and doesn’t require thinking outside the box the icentives still work. When it requires creativity, incentives and time limits could put pressure on employees, therefore not getting the best result for Co. and employees.

    If I owned my own Advertising Co. I would difinetly try to incorprate Mr. Pink’s ideas. For example; Client BMW. I would make a deal with BMW so all creatives working on the campaing could test drive any (all) model of BMW to get a better feel for it.

  9. Todd Brigman /

    Being one of the last ones to post here was somewhat of a challenge because all of the thoughts that originally came to my head have all been posted many times over. But, it forced me to really think long and hard about what is the downfall of most workers. I think that a lot of people get too comfortable in their positions and therefore get lazy and un-creative. So, to counteract this I would force my workers to stay fresh. I would do this by:
    -making people switch office locations every few months to give them a new perspective
    -move merchandise around frequently if it is a retail store
    -change people roles and titles often
    -never give people a set schedule, change their days, times, etc

    Some of these are a little wacky and off the wall but I really beleive that when people are on their toes, they are more productive and creative. I would want people to constantly have that feeling that they had when they were first hired and everything is so new and exciting.

  10. cory massiet /

    I guess i would have an open work schedule except for a certain time where every one comes in brainstorming throwing ideas off each other take some notes then go and leave to an environment that suits an individuals creative inspiration. offices would be open 24hrs a day come and go as you please cause sometimes inspiration strikes at odd hours and mobile to mobile would allow more brainstorming sessions to commence.

  11. Priscilla Rodriguez /

    If I was a CEO of a company I would create a work environment that promoted unity between all workers of the company. Although I feel there should be respect for higher rank employees, I think that all employees should feel comfortable enough not to feel nervous or anxious to speak up in the company. After a comfortable environment is set up between the workers I would promote teamwork through out the company because I feel that people work better with someone along side them. Its nice to have support and productive criticism between co-workers.

    In order to tap into employees’ intrinsic motivation, I feel that employees must be given freedom but with some direction as well. I like the idea of the Fed-Ex days, I would do something similar to that but I would encourage my employees to work on things that meant something in their life or represent who they are as a person. I feel that when someone puts their outside life in the work the best ideas and results come out because its something they feel passionate about.

  12. Brittany M /

    If I was a CEO of a company the creative method I would use to create intrinsic motivation in employees would be to create a better workspace that is not confined to one area. I have had the privilege to be in an office that works this way and I feel that with an open workspace people feel closer together because there aren’t many barriers closing people out. This method helps create a friendly atmosphere and helps people who may be a little timid feel that people are more approachable. The colors in the office would be bright happy colors. The offices that needed to have walls would be made of glass or a see through equivalent of glass so that even though these doors may be shut there is still an open vibe to it because you can see what is going on inside. The break area would be filled with comfy couches and stuff that can help relax or relieve you such as a pool table, a variety of vending machines, an outside area adjacent to the break room with a canopy, tables, chairs, and a nice grassy area along with a half court for basketball. I believe that if you create an area where the employees enjoy being then they will feel more inclined to work better not just for the extrinsic incentives but because they feel better about themselves and with their good work that can make them fell even better.

  13. Elena Wong /

    As CEO, I would have regular social gatherings to just “shoot the shit”, because I think that some of the best ideas come when you least expect them. People are more comfortable speaking out when it is in a casual environment. During these get-togethers I would also incorporate games, such as the Pictionary, or Cranium. It’s always interesting to see how people respond in games and how their brains function, and I think these games subconsciously get their creative juices working.

  14. Angela Kuo /

    I completely agree with Daniel Pink’s vision of motivation and new way of managing a business. I myself do better at a task if I am intrinsically motivated and genuinely interested in the task at hand. If I were a CEO of a major company or business I would make it mandatory for every employee to an hour out of every work day to attend a workshop that involoves something of the arts. Such as watching a movie, learning about design, digital design, art history, music, etc. Or they can use that time to autonomically stear their creative mind into something they have never tried before that they think could help them find new ideas or have them take a break for any routine they think is holding them back. I also would have them compare their new artistic knowledge to the work they have done before they attended the workshops and whatnot to see if they could improve any previous work with the new knowledge they have attained and for future projects. I would also allow employees to leave whenever they feel like as long as they can get the work done. I agree that external rewards are very limited but I think after a while the employees will see that the benefits of workshops and creative exercises are limitless and abundant.

  15. Angela Kuo /

    I agree with Daniel Pink’s vision on motivation and new way of managing a business. I personally work better when I am intrinsically motivated and genuinely enjoy the task at hand. If I were a CEO of a company I would make complementary workshops available for employees to attend that teaches them about creativity or areas of the arts such as music, design, drawing, art history, and other subjects that could help employees tap into an area they are interested in or have never really learned about before. I would let employees take an hour or 2 each work day for them to attend these workshops or they have the choice to go out (or stay in) and join any activity that they think will get their creative juices flowing and help them take a break from any routine they think they are getting sucked in. I would encourage the employees to take the new knowledge they have attained and compare it to the previouse work they have done and see if they could improve the work by incorporating the new knowledge as well as future projects. It is also encouraged to go out with coworkers as a group in order to bond as well as discuss any opinions or feelings. I would also let them leave whenever they feel like so as long as they get their work done. I think after a while they will find that the knowledge and the freedom they attain will benefit them creatively and intrinsically.

  16. Brittany Freitag /

    If I were the CEO of a company and I wanted to motivate my employees to become inspired, I would create as little boundaries as possible. I know it sounds rediculous, but I think that many people are intimidated by rules. I think it’s very important to make sure that your employees get there work done, but shouldn’t feel obligated to making themselves, look busy, even when they’re not. Its ok sometimes to take a break from what you are doing and come back to it with a fresh perspective. Intimidation is not a good tactic for motivating employees. Therefore I would talk to my employees like I would a peer, and make the environment and fun as possible, while still maintaing a good work ethic.

  17. Erin Quinones /

    If i was the CEO of a company, in order to tap into employees’ intrinsic montivations, I would not only use the methods discussed in Dan Pinks speaches (i really like the idea of fed ex days), i would also hold inspirational meetings once a month to help inspire and motivate my employees. These meetings would in fact be mandatory because they would be giving my employees advice and inspiring them to openly learn and creatively think, therefore each employee would gain from these guest speakers, and would enjoy coming to the meeting. I would also allow my employees to have an open schedule where they can come into work whenver they would like, as long as they get there work done. The catch would be that the office would not be an average “work-place” atmosphere, it would be a place full of art, interesting creations, or unlikely experiments; simply anything that would bring out a relaxed, artistic, and youthfull attitude in my employees so that they would want to come into the office to complete there work. We would have an anual show-n-tell week, where employees have to go out for the week and work on anything they wanted, and not come into the office until the end of the week. They would be encouraged to work on something that represented something about themselves or their passions in life, and at the end of the week they would get the opportunity to show these creations or experiments to there fellow co-workers at our annual party. I think that this would be a fun and casual way for employees to openly think and create things, while putting themselves fully into their projects because it’s something they want to complete and accomplish, not something they are being forced or rewarded to complete.

  18. Rowell Marcos /

    As CEO of a company I would create an area in the workplace designed for sleeping where an employee can go to sleep in a bed if they lack sleep for whatever reason. I would rather have employees that are well rested then employees that are half awake in order to help the employee function with their full potential. I would also allow employees to go to work in comfortable clothes rather than the typical suit and tie culture found in most offices. If employees are dressed in comfortable clothes then they can produce better work because it would let them feel as if they weren’t working at all. I would also allow an extended break period every week, in which employees can choose how long they’re break will be, as long as it is spent outside of the office. Having a long break will let employees relieve themselves from a stressful day and being outside of the office will let them get some fresh air into their system so that they can free their mind to think more clearly. Finally, I would create a system in which employee are randomly selected to go out to lunch with me each week. This will let me get to know my employees better, so that I can break the barrier between us, and to get feedback and suggestions to make the company a better workplace.

  19. Erin Quinones /

    If i were the CEO of a company i would do all i could to make it a place of creative thinking and learning. I really like Pink’s idea of the fed ex days, and i also like the idea of open hours for empoyees to come and go as they please. In a previous post someone metioned the idea of having an office that was open 24 hours to its workers, and i think that this is a great idea as well. Not only are all of these idea good starts to intrinsically motivate my employees, but i would also emphasize the idea of creativity, and working together in my office. The office itself would be full of art, unlikely experiments, motivational perices of work, along with inspirational qoutes. There would be opportunity to work in a desk office setting( keep in mind the office would be no ordinary one), as well as unconvetional places, such as a garden, or balcony overlooking an amazing view, etc. It would be a workplace full of color and life, threfore making employees want to come to work, and when there, they would enjoy each moment. Also i find it more interesting and fun when i work with others so i would encourage my employees to get to know eachother on a more personal level, and throw weekly luncheons, bbq’s etc. Once a month i would invite and inspirational guest speaer to a mandatory meeting for my employees, the meeting would help guide and inspire them to work freely and creatively. The meetings would only be an hour or so long, but they would be beneficial to each employee and inspire each one individually. Optional workshhops would be provided for the employees to gain knowledge about upcoming events or projects, but ultimately the emplyees would have full control of their work and hours of work. Once a year (about half way through) i would use Pink’s idea of fed ex days, but instead they would be fed ex weeks, where employees were to take the week off to work on something that didn’t pertain to their work they do in the office. They would be encouraged to work on something that was meaningful to them in their personal lives, or to simply use their passions to create something of their own choice. At the end of the week (friday), we would hold an office show-n-tell celebration for those employees who wanted to show there work to the rest of the office. There would be no prizes, no rewards, just simply an opportunity for each employee to show what they can do, and to express themselves as indivuals. I believe that as long as the office is a fresh and free spirited work enviorment, the creativity would continue to flow with each day that passes.

  20. Ernest Guadron /

    The methods I will implement on my company, as the CEO, will be creative, simple, smart, and can be incorporated into any working environment. One idea is to have monthly group projects. The idea is to work on a creative project that will carry a positive message of importance for each employee. I would make them work on whatever they may choose and during the times they may choose, as long as it does not affect getting their job done effectively. The purpose is to teach them how to work together, learn new things about each other, understanding each other, share ideas, and give each other support. In the world of advertisement, incredible ideas are always being shot down and thrown into the graveyard. This leads to an amount of stress that gets in the way of thinking creatively. Therefore, I would create a stress free environment. I would design the department in a way that no matter where you go you’ll feel safe, encouraged, at home, and free to take risks and go beyond the norm. Leaving messages of encouragement, placing art, putting up group projects, and placing pictures of employees hanging out together are some examples of what I would place along the walls, floors, and just about anywhere with space. I want the employees to spend time together outside of the office, with the product or individually, for at least 2 hours while video taping and photographing their experience together. Sometimes creative ideas come to us so quickly that we sometimes forget them. The video footage and photographs can help jog the employees’ memories as we all watch them together. They might just see or think of an idea once they see what was going on through a different perspective.

  21. Benjamin O. /

    These videos offer a better understanding of how the creative mind can be opened when there are no limitations. If I was the CEO of a company that needed to get the creative right side of my employees working better I would need to change the regular style of business. I would have to agree with the many previously given ideas. Environment is key to a workplace. If an office is enclosed and not open it lessens our ability to think outside the box since we feel like we are already inside one. Having a fun and diverse work environment would enable individuals to move around and broaden experiences that could develop greater ideas. I like the idea of giving people time to enjoy a project because it is something they want to do. Such as having 24 hours to invent or create something for fun. Less structure could contribute to individuals having more tangible freedom and creative freedom with work. As CEO I would offer work shops that would be available, if the employee wanted to attend, for learning something fun such as a hobby that the employee could enjoy. This would enable them to exercise their creative side and produce more for the company. Perhaps even having some type of field trip for departments where they are able to go out and enjoy something together would be another way to actively engage the intrinsic and creative side of the brain and enable workers to feel more motivated in producing quality ideas and work. Finally in order to increase purpose if the company does not already give or support a worthy cause I would ensure our work would fund an organization that is increasing the well being of others. In this way the company would be prosperous in more than just finance and employees would know they are supporting something beneficial.

  22. M. Grover /

    If you look at the ideas presented in Pink’s video, he very early on lays before us 2 types of tasks. Ones where a short sighted incentive makes people move fast, and others where it seems to do harm. Optimization is far more intricate that simple black and white and methods cannot just be slapped on to any given task based on a general profile. For this reason, I can’t imagine why one would simply throw out one idea based on what they assess their employees to be, or the position that they carry. I believe that these methods have their place and time and are useful short-term tools to allow employees to succeed.
    There is an old saying, and pardon the choice of words, “if you want someone to move quick, light a fire under their ass.” Now while doing this literally will quickly have you up to your ears in lawsuits, doing so figuratively is undeniably beneficial. Hitting people where it is going to hurt, their job and potentially their entire income will make them become more aggressive in completing their tasks.
    I believe that peer and management reviews by employees help foster competition, collaboration, and eliminate waste and laziness. Employees who don’t get along, will not be productive in all likelihood. This isn’t to say they must like each other, they just must both understand each others importance, which most intelligent human beings will. Getting rid of the useless or lazy employees will “trim the fat” that is slowing a company down and potentially costing them money. The bottom 10% will be harshly reviewed and likely laid off at the end of each quarter.
    Harsh? Yes perhaps, but business is not a charity it is for profit. I believe in cut throat business and believe that the most creative will thrive in this business model. Of course, this model won’t work for everyone but I believe for the people I would surround myself with, this

  23. John Kim /

    If I were the CEO of my own company my solution to boost intrinsic motivation would revolve around the idea that people are most creative when they are out and about. I would implement a full day, once every month where you are encouraged to not come in to the office but go out and do something new. Experiencing something new, whether it be a show, concert, class or exhibition you will be exposed to something culturally different. After this expedition, I would have everyone take some time to write about what they experienced and one thing that could be utilized in their daily lives.

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