Author: Daniel Pink
Topic: Human Psychology
Appropriate for: Athletes, Coaches, Parents
Overall rating: 5/5 – go out and get it now!!!
I seem to have a problem. I can’t walk past a charity shop without looking at what books they have. On this occasion it reaped dividends – snagging this book for just 99p! A book that is often referred to in podcasts and interviews, I had been meaning to get around to reading it for a long time. I’m really glad I did as this was a very insightful and impactful book with so many applicable lessons to sporting performance and coaching!
The premise of the book is that despite the progress made by science in uncovering what factors motivate human beings to create their best work, this is at odds with the “old school” methods that the vast majority of the world still adheres to. Despite the popularity of ” carrot and stick” methods of rewarding good behaviour and punishing bad behaviour, this method doesn’t work and can actually cause harm. If we want to be effective in motivating others, we need to move away from this system.
Daniel Pink sets the scene by describing how traditionally it was thought that human beings were motivated by 2 different factors. Firstly, we are motivated by biological drives related to survival, including:
Secondly, we are motivated by external punishments and rewards in our surrounding environment. However, in the 20th century scientists began to discover that we are also driven by “intrinsic motivation”. Many of us will recognise this term from psychology modules in coaching courses or degree programs. Here he also introduces a term I’d never come across before – “autotelic”. (This term made me realise the difference in motivation of a child engaging in sport contrasted to many of the “win at all costs” coaches they man encounter)
What Pink begins to describe is how the traditional method of “carrot and stick” or “if-then” rewards can be useful if the task is very routine and requires little thought, creativity or ingenuity. But in a scenario requiring creativity they actually produce less of the behaviour we are trying to encourage by decreasing intrinsic motivation, discouraging creativity and good behaviour, potentially leading to unethical behaviours like cheating, addiction and a focus on short term gain.
He introduces the concept of Type X (extrinsic) and Type I (intrinsic) behaviours. The former focussed more on the external desires/rewards (medals, trophies, bonuses) and the latter more the inherent satisfaction within at task (play, competition, self-improvement). He then suggests that in order to achieve personal fulfillment and professional attainment, we need to progress away from Type X to Type I behaviour as this will help produce better performance, improved health and higher levels of well-being.
Pink then highlights the 3 most influential factors in determining Type I behaviour:
Pink suggests that it is our default setting to be self-directed and autonomous. and that the dreaded “micro-management” styles of many bosses (Coaches!?) and business (Teams?!) reduced Type I by reducing autonomy. Think of all those “Joystick coaches”. He highlights that to foster autonomy, we need to consider handing over control of the task itself, the time to complete it, the team they do it with and the technique they use to do so. He highlights many companies that have rebelled against the traditional 9-5, time-based work environments, citing examples such as Atlassian, 3M and many others who have loosened their grip on control only to reap many benefits.
So how much autonomy do we give our athletes? Are we joystick coaches? Do they have any control over what, when, how and with whom? How can we increase athlete autonomy in our coaching?
Pink suggests that mastery of any task (sport, music, science etc) requires engagement and that this demands “flow” – experiences that optimally balance ability and challenge. (This is starting to sound a lot like coaching! Think about those matched won 10-0 rather than the closely fought match ups. Which was a great opportunity for development and engagement?)
He suggests that the best environments supplement day to day tasks with what he calls “Goldilocks tasks” – ones that are not overly easy, but not too hard either. This is exactly what we are trying to do in sport coaching – challenging our athletes right on the edge of their abilities! Pink also highlights 3 important elements of master:
- It is a mindset of improvement (Think “Growth Mindset” by Dr Carol Dweck)
- It requires effort, grit and deliberate practice
- It is an “asymptote” – that is you are constantly striving for, but never reaching it (Like a “perfect” sporting performance)
Are we encouraging our athletes to pursue mastery? Or are we just concerned about this weekend’s match/performance? Are they showing signs of effort, grit and deliberate practice?
Pink suggests that it is defined in human nature to seek purpose. Traditionally, businesses have considered purpose a “nice to have” not a “need to have”. However, this is changing and you can see that in many of the social enterprises that now operate in our communities on a daily basis. Purpose is now gaining it’s place alongside Profit as a guiding principle in businesses. For example, using profit to reach a specific purpose (Think of “TOMS shoes”). He suggests that this twinning of purpose maximisation with profit maximisation has the potential to change the way we look at work, business and our world in the future.
What is our athletes’ purpose for playing and competing? Is it autotelic? What is our purpose and reason for coaching? What is our bigger purpose for our coaching?
The book then has a very useful “Type I Toolkit” – suggesting practical tools, resources and methods to help develop Type I behaviour in ourselves, our organisations and our families!
You can find the book here: Drive
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