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Annotated captions of RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us in English

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RSAnimate

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www.theRSA.org

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Dan Pink, Drive

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Our motivations are unbelievably interesting, I mean...

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I've been working on this for a few years

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and I just find the topic still so amazingly engaging and interesting

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so I want to tell you about that.

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The science is really surprising. The science is a little bit freaky.

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OK? We are not as

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endlessly manipulable and as predictable as you would think.

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There's a whole set of unbelievably interesting studies. I want to give you two

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that call into question this idea that if you reward something

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you get more of the behavior you want.

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If you punish something, you get less of it.

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So let's go from London

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to the main streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts

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the northeastern part of the United States and let's talk about a

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study done at MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Here's what they did: They took a whole group of students

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and they gave them a set of challenges. Things like

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memorizing strings of digits

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solving word puzzles, other kinds of spacial puzzles

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even physical tasks like throwing a ball through a hoop.

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OK, they gave them these challenges and they said

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to incentivize their performance

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they gave them 3 levels of rewards. OK?

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So if you did pretty well, you got a small monetary reward.

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If you did medium well, you got a medium monetary reward.

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And if you did really well, if you were one of the top performers

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you got a large cash prize.

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Ok, we've seen this movie before.

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This is essentially a typical motivation scheme within organizations

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right? We reward the very top performers

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we ignore the low performers and other folks in the middle.

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Ok, you get a little bit. So what happens?

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They do the test. They have these incentives.

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Here's what they found out. 1.

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As long as the task involved only mechanical skill

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bonuses worked as they would be expected

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the higher the pay, the better their performance.

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Ok, that makes sense, but here's what happens.

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But once the task calls for even rudimentary cognitive skill

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a larger reward led to poorer performance. Now this is strange, right?

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A larger reward led to poorer performance. How can that possibly be?

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Now what's interesting about this is that

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these folks here who did this are all economists:

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2 at MIT, 1 at the University of Chicago, 1 at Carnegie Melanie

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the top tier of the economics profession.

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And they're reaching this conclusion that seems contrary to

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what a lot of us learned in economics

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which is that the higher the reward, the better the performance.

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And they're saying that once you get above rudimentary cognitive skill

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it's the other way around

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which seems like the idea that these rewards don't work that way

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seems vaguely Left-Wing and Socialist, doesn't it?

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It's this kind of weird Socialist conspiracy.

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For those of you who have these conspiracy theories I want to point out

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the notoriously left-wing socialist group

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that financed the research: The Federal Reserve Bank.

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So this the mainstream of the mainstream

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coming to a conclusion that's quite surprising

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seems to defy the laws of behavioral physics.

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So this is strange, a strange funny. So what do they do? They say...

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This is freaky. Let's go test it somewhere else.

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Maybe that 50 dollars or 60 dollars prize

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isn't sufficiently motivating for an MIT student, right?

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So let's go to a place where 50 dollars is actually

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more significant relatively.

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So we take the experiment, we're going to Madurai, India.

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Rural India, where 50 dollars, 60 dollars

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whatever the number was, is actually a significant sum of money.

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So they replicated the experiment in India roughly as follows:

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Small rewards, the equivalent of 2 week's salary.

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I'm sorry, I mean low performance [received] 2 week's salary.

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Medium performance [received] about a month's salary.

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High performance [received] about 2 month's salary.

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Ok, so these are real good incentives

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so you're going to get a different result here.

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What happened though, was that the people offered the medium reward

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did no better than the people offered the small reward

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but this time around, the people offered the top reward

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they did worst of all. Higher incentives led to worse performance.

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What's interesting about this is that it actually isn't all that anomalous.

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This has been replicated over and over and over again by psychologists

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by sociologists and by economists, over and over and over again.

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For simple, straight-forward tasks, those kinds of incentives

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if you do this then you get that, they're great!

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With tasks that are an algorithmic

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set of rules where you have to just follow along and get a right answer

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"If-then" rewards, carrots and sticks, outstanding!

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But when the task gets more complicated

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when it requires some conceptual, creative thinking

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those kind of motivators demonstrably don't work.

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Fact: Money is a motivator, at work. But in a slightly strange way

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if you don't pay people enough they won't be motivated.

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What's curious about, there's another paradox here

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which is the best use of money as a motivator

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is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table.

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Pay people enough, so they are not thinking about money

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and they're thinking about the work.

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Now once you do that, it turns out there are 3 factors

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that the science shows, lead to better performance

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not to mention, personal satisfaction:

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autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

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Autonomy is our desire to be self-directed:

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to direct our own lives.

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Now in many ways, traditional methods of management run afoul of that.

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Management is great if you want compliance, but if you want engagement

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which is what we want in the workforce today

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as people are doing more complicated, sophisticated things

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self-direction is better.

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Let me give you some examples of this

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of the most radical forms of self-direction

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in the workplace, that lead to good results.

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Let's start with this company right here, Atlassian

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an Australian company. It's a software company

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and they do something really cool.

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Once a quarter on Thursday afternoon, they say to their developers

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"For the next 24 hours, you can work on anything you want.

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You can work at it the way you want. You can work at it with whomever you want.

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All we ask is that you show the results to the company

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at the end of those 24 hours."

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and this fun kind of meeting, not a star chamber session but

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this fun meeting with beer and cake and fun and other things like that.

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It turns out that one day of pure undiluted autonomy

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has led to a whole array of fixes for existing software

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a whole array of ideas for new products

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that otherwise have never emerged. One day.

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Now this is not an "if-then" incentive. This is not the sort of thing

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that I would have done 3 years ago before I knew this research.

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I would have said "You want people to be creative and innovative?"

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Give them a fricken innovation bonus.

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If you could do something cool, I'll give you 2,500 dollars.

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They're not doing this at all. They're essentially saying

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you probably want to do something interesting.

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Let me just get out of your way.

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One day of autonomy produces things that never emerge.

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Now let's talk about mastery. Mastery is our urge to get better at stuff.

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We like to get better at stuff.

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This is why people play musical instruments on the weekend.

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You have all these people who're acting in ways that

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seem irrational economically.

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They play musical instruments on weekends, why?

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It's not going get them a mate. It's not going to make them any money.

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Why are they doing it? Because it's fun.

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Because you get better at it, and that's satisfying.

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Go back in time a little bit.

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I imagine this: If I went to my first economic's professor

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a woman named Mary Alice Shulman.

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And I went to her in 1983, and said

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"Professor Shulman, can I talk to you after class for a moment?" "Yeah."

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"I've got this inkling. I've got this idea for a business model.

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I just want to run it past to you.

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Here's how it would work:

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You get a bunch of people around the world

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who are doing highly skilled work

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but they're willing to do it for free

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and volunteer their time 20, sometimes 30 hours a week."

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Ok, she's looking at you somewhat skeptically there.

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"Oh, but I'm not done.

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And then, what they create, they give it away, rather than sell it.

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It's going to be huge."

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And she truly would have thought I was insane.

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All right, you seem to fly in the face of so many things

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but what do you have? You have Linux, powering

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1 out of 4 corporate servers and Fortune 500 companies.

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Apache, powering more than the majority of web servers.

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Wikipedia...What's going on? Why are people doing this?

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Why are these people, many of whom are technically sophisticated

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highly skilled people who have jobs, ok?

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They have jobs! They're working at jobs for pay

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doing challenging, sophisticated, technological work.

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And yet, during their limited discretionary time

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they do equally, if not more, technically sophisticated work

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not for their employer, but for someone else for free!

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That's a strange economic behavior.

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Economists who look into it "Why are they doing this?"

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It's overwhelmingly clear: Challenge in mastery

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along with making a contribution, that's it.

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What you see more and more is a rise of what you might call

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the purpose motive. It's that more and more organizations

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want to have some kind of transcendent purpose

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partly because it makes coming to work better

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partly because that's the way to get better talent.

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And what we're seeing now is, in some ways

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when the profit motive becomes unmoored from the purpose motive

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bad things happen. Bad things ethically sometimes

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but also bad things just like, not good stuff:

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like crappy products

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like lame services, like uninspiring places to work.

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That when the profit motive is paramount

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or when it becomes completely unhitched from the purpose motive

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people don't do great things.

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More and more organizations are realizing this

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and sort of disturbing the categories between

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what's profit and what's purpose.

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And I think that actually heralds something interesting.

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And I think that the companies, organizations that are flourishing

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whether they're profit, for-profit or somewhere in-between

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are animated by this purpose. Let me give you a couple of examples.

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Here's the founder of Skype.

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He says our goal is to be disruptive but in the cause of

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making the world a better place.

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Pretty good purpose.

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Here's Steve Jobs.

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"I want to put a Ding in the universe."

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All right? That's the kind of thing that might get you up

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in the morning, racing to go to work. So I think that

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we are purpose maximizers, not only profit-maximizers.

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I think that the science shows that we care about mastery very, very deeply.

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And the science shows that we want to be self-directed.

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And I think that the big take-away here is that

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if we start treating people like people

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and not assuming that they're simply horses

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you know, slower, smaller, better-smelling horses

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if we get past this kind of ideology of

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"carrots and sticks" and look at the science

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I think we can actually build organizations

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and work lives that make us better off but I also think

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they have the promise to make our world just a little bit better.