Monday, March 7, 2011

A short conversation with...Daniel Pink @danielpink

I am delighted to post my interview with Daniel Pink. As many of you know, I am a fan of Mr. Pink's work. A special thanks to Dan for participating in my short conversation series! Enjoy!

Daniel Pink

1. What started your interest in human motivation?

After I wrote A WHOLE NEW MIND -- about the shift from metaphorically "left-brain" abilities to "right-brain" ones -- lots of people asked me about how to motivate people to do this sort of work. I didn't have a clue. So I began looking at what turned out to be an absolute treasure trove of research on human motivation. And the answers I found were surprising. Very surprising.

2. Can you recommend a couple of things teachers could be doing in order to better tap into their students’ motivation?

There are lots of things teachers can do -- and many of them are doing these things already. What's missing is a way for teachers around the world to share best practices. That said, here are a few ideas that come from the research I've done.

First, try a FedEx Day. This idea comes from the Australian company Atlassian. One a quarter on Thursday afternoons, the company tells its software developers to work on whatever they want, so long as it's not part of their regular job, for the next 24 hours. The only requirement is that they have to show what they've created on Friday afternoons in a fun, freewheeling meeting. (They call these FedEx Days because you have to deliver something overnight.) This one day of autonomy has produced a whole array of ideas for new products, improvements on existing products, and so forth that had otherwise never emerged. Schools could do something similar with students or even with teachers.

Second, spend a little more time on why. The research on motivation shows pretty clearly that people do better when they know the purpose of what they're doing. So when doling out homework, for instance, explain why you're assigning this particular homework and how it contributes to students' learning. When beginning a unit, spend a few minutes discussing why you're covering this topic and how it relates to the real world.

Third, let students do their own report cards. At the beginning of a term, ask students to lay out what they want to learn. Then have them self-assess several times along the way to see whether they're making progress. Then at the end of the term, ask them to give themselves a grade. These aren't replacements for traditional report cards, but supplements -- and they can begin to teach the habits of goal-setting and self-assessment that are hugely valuable in high performance in any sphere.

3. Have you noticed a big interest in your work from people involved in education?

Somewhat. I write mostly about business -- but good teachers and administrators always want fresh, smart ideas no matter their source.

Daniel Pink's Blog


  1. Pretty lucky guy!

    Getting to have a conversation with Danial Pink is a fortunate thing for sure. There are many great points that he makes. I love the fed ex idea! I think it would be a great for building a team atmosphere. Unfortunately with time, budget and admin's fear of change it is something that will be a tough thing to take hold in education.

    The only fear that I have with the education world looking at the business world for all of their ideas is that we become too concerned with balanced budgets and efficiency and forget who we really work for.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. My pleasure Jody. Thanks for the comment!

  3. ...always a fan of yours, Brian! -- now, slightly full of envy; really Daniel Pink?!? :) How awesome!! Great post!