Author of five books and host of the National Geographic Channel Program Crowd Control, Daniel Pink is an American entrepreneur and TV personality. Born in raised in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, Pink would eventually earn a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and a law degree from Yale. Instead of pursuing law, however, Pink focused on politics, becoming an aide to Secretary of Labor Robert Rich and chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore.
He published his first book, Free Agent Nation, in 2001 to some success. However, it wasn’t until 2009 with the publication of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us that he found his place in the spotlight. His 2009 TED talk, “The Puzzle of Motivation,” is one of the ten most watched TED talks of all time, and in 2011, Thinkers50 named Pink as one of the most influential management thinkers on the planet.
Here are some of his most profound ideas on motivation and leadership:
1. Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. Meaningful achievement depends on lifting one’s sights and pushing toward the horizon.
2. The problem with making an extrinsic reward the only destination that matters is that some people will choose the quickest route there, even if it means taking the low road. Indeed, most of the scandals and misbehavior that have seemed endemic to modern life involve shortcuts.
3. Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.
4. We leave lucrative jobs to take low-paying ones that provide a clearer sense of purpose.
5. When the reward is the activity itself–deepening learning, delighting customers, doing one’s best–there are no shortcuts.
6. Why reach for something you can never fully attain? But it’s also a source of allure. Why not reach for it? The joy is in the pursuit more than the realization. In the end, mastery attracts precisely because mastery eludes.
7. Goals may cause systematic problems for organizations due to narrowed focus, unethical behavior, increased risk taking, decreased cooperation, and decreased intrinsic motivation. Use care when applying goals in your organization.
8. For artists, scientists, inventors, schoolchildren, and the rest of us, intrinsic motivation—the drive do something because it is interesting, challenging, and absorbing—is essential for high levels of creativity.
9. Rewards do not undermine people’s intrinsic motivation for dull tasks because there is little or no intrinsic motivation to be undermined.
10. Once we realize that the boundaries between work and play are artificial, we can take matters in hand and begin the difficult task of making life more livable.
11. Rewards can deliver a short-term boost—just as a jolt of caffeine can keep you cranking for a few more hours. But the effect wears off—and, worse, can reduce a person’s longer-term motivation to continue the project.
12. Clarity on how to think without clarity on how to act can leave people unmoved.
13. Lead with questions, not answers.
14. Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.
15. Human beings have an inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend an exercise their capacities, to explore, and to learn.
Pink’s most recent work, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others reached #1 on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post Bestseller lists. He currently lives in Washington D.C. with his wife and kids.