Everyday Insights 003/18

What motivates people, and how knowing this can help you make crucial brand decisions.

By Aditi Mukherjee

Turns out money can only motivate a person so much. In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us first published in 2009, career analyst Daniel Pink shares his teachings from two studies conducted by economists at The University of Chicago, MIT and Carnegie Mellon University on what motivates humans and how to incentivize them. 

Pink shares that the study showed him “The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table: Pay people enough so that they’re not thinking about money and they’re thinking about the work.”^1 Once the issue of money is off the table, three separate motivating factors emerge that science shows result in higher satisfaction and better performance: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  

Pink defines them as - Autonomy, or the desire to be self-directed; Mastery, or the impulsion to keep improving at something that’s important to us; and Purpose, the sense that what we do produces something transcendent or serves something meaningful beyond ourselves.^2

He goes on to say that although having management and providing monetary incentives to people is a great a way to keep them compliant if we wanted them to be engaged, however, it is much more effective to provide them with the space they need to direct themselves. He also notes that the studies point to how people derive a great sense of satisfaction from being good at something, and are therefore intrinsically motivated to get better, thus often seeking more and more challenging opportunities that allow them to practice their craft. In such conditions, the underlying motivating factor reveals itself to be the idea of serving a greater purpose or the sense of dedicating ones’ skill to creating value for that which is greater than oneself. 

This learning can be a great centering tool when defining company missions and creating engagement journeys for satisfied employees and customers alike. By keeping factors such as ‘spaces to practice autonomy’, ‘opportunities to practice and master skill sets’, and ‘an overarching and aspirational purpose’ consistent throughout their brand operations, companies can ensure that they remain good and create value at an emotional level for people across the board. 

To learn more about what Mr. Pink says in his book, view this fantastic animation film by RSA

as well as this TED talk where Mr. Pink presents his findings on Motivation, or what drives human beings. 


1 Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York: Riverhead Books.
2 Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York: Riverhead Books.

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