Interesting TED Talk on Motivation

I listened to a very interesting TED Talk today by Dan Pink. You can watch it below or read my brief notes from it.


Pink discusses several research studies on how typical reward-based motivation works very well for routine, mechanical tasks, but fails — and actually decreases performance — for tasks that require any kind of creativity.

The solution is to add intrinsic motivation for cognitive/creative tasks, which comes in three forms.

  1. Autonomy – an urge to direct our own lives
  2. Mastery – a desire to get better and better at something that matters
  3. Purpose – a yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

Traditional management is good for compliance, but self-direction is good for engagement.  He then goes on to tell a few stories of how autonomy has worked for companies in the real-world.


  1. Traditional rewards do work, but only in a narrow band of circumstances.
  2. If-then rewords often destory creativity.
  3. The secret to high performance is the unseen intrinsic drive.

As I think about what projects I’ve felt especially motivated on in the past, I can definitely identify how I’ve been motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  I hope to seek, with more clarity, projects and work that have these characteristics.

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