Tag Archives: Daniel Pink

Innovation Is Cheap – Mediocrity (The Failure To Innovate) Is What Is Expensive

My blogging colleague, Bob Morris, has written about the difference between creativity and innovation.  And there are many books, some quite wonderful, about creativity and innovation.  But here is what hit me directly between the eyes about it this weekend.

It is a quote in Drive by Daniel Pink.  Pink argues that extrinsic motivation (Pink:  Motivation 2.0) – you know, rewards and punishments, the kind of motivation that was made famous and served workers well in the early part of the 20th century, does not help in jobs that require creativity and innovation.  In fact, they can be counterproductive, practically de-motivating.

And in the midst of his discussion of the new approach to motivation needed in the workplace of today, is this quote:

“The ultimate freedom for creative groups is the freedom to experiment with new ideas.  Some skeptics insist that innovation is expensive.  In the long run, innovation is cheap.  Mediocrity is expensive – and autonomy can be the antidote.”  (Tom Kelley, General Manager IDEO).

Kelley is an innovation guru, and his firm, IDEO, is an innovation factory.  They are hired to come up with designs for products.  So, everything has to be new.

But think about what he wrote.  Innovation is cheap, because breakthrough innovations provide the next product/system/approach that leads to market share and maybe market dominance.  In other words, if you want to discover what is really expensive, then fail to innovate.  If you don’t innovate; if you don’t stay ahead of the next iteration and/or breakthrough, then your success of today will disappear in a heartbeat.

It is mediocrity – the failure to innovate when you could have, and you should have – that is so very expensive.

So, whatever else leaders need to provide, this is one thing they’d best not fail it – providing an environment that truly nurtures innovation.

That’s really what Pink’s book, Drive, is all about.

Coming in June for the First Friday Book Synopsis: Daniel Pink’s Drive, and Employee Engagement

For the June First Friday Book Synopsis, I will be presenting a synopsis of the best-selling Daniel Pink book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. This has been well-reviewed, Bob Morris and I have both blogged about it on this site a few times, and it will be a terrific choice to help you think about what motivates you and those around you.

Karl Krayer has chosen a practical book on employee engagement.  All companies want their employees to be fully engaged, but attaining this elusive goal is tough.  The book is Make Their Day!:  Employee Recognition That Works by Cindy Ventrice.

Mark your calendars now for June 4, our June First Friday Book Synopsis.

(and note:  our synopses from this morning — Linchpin by Seth Godin and ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson — should be up on our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com, in just a few days).

Malcolm Gladwell Really Likes Daniel Pink’s New Book, Drive

Malcolm Gladwell

The New Yorker has an on-line book club.  Malcolm Gladwell made the selection for the current round.  He chose Drive by Daniel Pink.  Here’s part of why:

Pink follows through on their implications in a way that is provocative and fascinating. The way we structure organizations and innovation, after all, almost always assumes that the prospect of financial reward is the prime human motivator. We think that the more we pay people, the better results we’ll get. But what if that isn’t true? What the research shows, instead, is that the great wellspring of creativity is intrinsic motivation—that is, I do my best work for personal rewards (out of love or intellectual fulfillment) and not external motivation (money).

I think I spent as much time thinking about what this book meant as I did reading it.


I will be presenting a synopsis of Drive at the June First Friday Book Synopsis.

I’m salivating — I can’t wait to present these books…

Confession time.  In the next few months at the First Friday Book Synopsis, I am presenting synopses of the following three books, and I can’t wait!

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.  (Read Bob Morris’ terrific review here).

The Checklist Manifesto:
How to Get Things Right by Dr. Atul Gawande

{Here’s an excerpt from the Business Week review:
But the scope of the book goes well beyond medicine. With The Checklist Manifesto, Gawande has entered Gladwell-land. Fellow New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell has produced three best sellers—The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers—by stacking up detailed, seemingly unrelated anecdotes to bolster a larger, universal thesis. Gawande follows the same blueprint, examining all manner of disparate tasks, from flying a plane to building a skyscraper, to show how checklists can improve outcomes. Read this book and you might find yourself making checklists for the most mundane tasks—and be better off for it.}


Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink.

Seldom (maybe never) have I been this jazzed about so many selections at once.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love the books I choose to present.  And many of them are incredibly valuable.  But there is “love,” and then there is “I can’t wait, I’m salivating, love,” which occurs only rarely, when I get to present a book that truly rings my bell/floats my boat/gets my juices flowing.  In the next few months, I’ve got three such books – books I can’t wait to read.

Just letting you know.

Free Agent Nation – Closer and Closer to Everybody’s Reality

This book is about the free agent.  If the term is vague, it is because I can think of no other way to describe the people I am talking about.  They are free from the bonds of a large institution, and agents of their own futures.  They are the new archetypes of work in America.  The Free Agent Org Chart resembles a traditional organizational chart less than it resembles the human brain…,  continually forging and reforging connections, constantly laying fresh pathways to another.

Daniel H. Pink, Free Agent Nation:  The Future of Working for Yourself


Yesterday in the Sunday Dallas Morning News Points Section, you will find this article:  A freelance work force by Drake Bennett.  Here’s a key paragraph:

“Right now I can’t hire a bunch of programmer experts in lots of different domains because I can’t afford to keep them on hand all the time,” he says. “But if I could hire them just for the five minutes I need them, individual people would have the power to create projects that require lots of expertise, and the potential for people to innovate and create things would increase.”

And therein lies the crux of the problem.  Business owners don’t need employees — they need short-term helpers for specific tasks.  They need assistants or collaborators, paid by the minute, not employees paid by the year.

In the free agent nation, more and more people will have to find their own “work,” and their work will not be a “job,” but rather a serial experience of task after task for owner/boss after owner/boss.  It is the curse of the technological age, the information age, that will leave ever expanding numbers of people jobless.  And, thus, it will require a new set of work skills.  Every person will have to be a:

• self-starting
• new skill-learning
•  personally and perpetually marketing
• ever-well-connected

And though Daniel Pink (who I really like) paints this bold new world as a world of freedom and possibility, there may be a fair number of people who are simply not up to this challenge.

This bold new world can be a nightmare for quite a number of folks.  More from the Bennett article:

The United States Government Accountability Office has estimated that so-called contingent workers – everything from temps to day laborers to the self-employed to independent contractors – make up nearly a third of the workforce. And forecasters believe that proportion will rise. The growth is being driven partly by economic factors, with the uncertain economic climate making short-term contract workers more attractive to firms than full-time employees, but of course broader technological changes are at work as well; cellphones, PDAs and broadband make it easy to farm out work, even complex, interactive tasks that previously only made sense to do in-house.
This shift has begun to trigger a more fundamental examination of what a job is and what we expect to get from it. Despite the vast diversity of the work people do, the traditional notion of a job has tended to be a standard bundle of responsibilities, roles and benefits: We do our work for an employer to whom we owe our primary professional allegiance, and that employer pays us and provides us health insurance and a sense of professional identity. In the United States, many of the laws that shape health insurance, retirement and tax policy are structured around this model.

Tom Peters and others have been saying for quite some time that your only loyalty is to you“Me, Inc.” Well, for a whole lot of “Me, Inc” types, the jobless recovery is painting us into a new world of ever-increasing circles of free agents.

The challenge is a big one – for each one of us, and for our country and society.

Was I better today than yesterday? – Drive and motivation insight from Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink

Last night, I heard Daniel Pink speak about motivation (at Arts & Letters Live at the Dallas Museum of Art.  They put on really good programs).

His message was simple, and clear.  It is found in his new book, Drive:  The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us.  (I plan to present it soon at the First Friday Book Synopsis).

Here is the message:  Intrinsic motivation is deeper, better, and is rapidly replacing extrinsic (rewards and punishments) motivation.  And the question for which you need the best motivation is this question:

“Was I better today than yesterday?”

He said that if you learn to ask this question, very regularly, you will develop the practice of seldom going more than one day with an answer of “no.”  If your answer is “no” for one day, you will work a little bit harder at getting better the second day.

And he offers his own Twitter summary of his own book (on page 203):

“Carrots and sticks are so last century.  Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery, and purpose.”

So here is your question.  What motivates you to do better/get better/be better?  And if you are not motivated toward better, then it is definitely time to find some motivation.


Here’s Dan Pink’s Ted Talk (just under 19 minutes) on motivation.  I just watched it — it’s worth the time investment.