A Conversation with Daniel Pink

A Conversation with Daniel Pink @DanielPink 
Interview by Joe Ferraro @FerraroOnAir

©Rebecca Emily DrobisAll Rights Reserved

Author Daniel Pink
©Rebecca Emily Drobis All Rights Reserved Author Daniel Pink

Audio here

Joe: He’s written A Whole New Mind, To Sell is Human and Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, and today he is helping us get one percent better. Let me welcome in Dan Pink, Dan.

Dan: Joe. Thanks for having me. Great to be here.

Joe: Thanks for taking the time out. Our missions seemed to align and I’m a big admirer of your work. So thanks again.
Dan: Okay, thanks.

Joe: When I look back to your work on Drive, there’s a question that jumps out at me and it’s remarkably aligned with the mission that I’ve taken on, which is simple but profound: it’s was I better today than I was yesterday? And that’s something you talk quite a bit about. I wonder, is that still something that resonates with you today in your practice?

Dan: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I mean, the genesis of that is that when you look at some of the research . . . when you look at the 50 years of research done in behavioral science on what motivates people, one of the core motivators that we have is something that I like to call mastery, which is getting better at something that matters. In fact, Teresa Amabile at Harvard Business School has some really great research showing that the single biggest day to day motivator on the job is making progress in meaningful work. And so one of the challenges in making progress no matter where we work or how we work, is getting feedback on how we’re doing. And you know I think inside of larger organizations the feedback mechanisms are broken. And so for individuals I think they have to come up with their own kind of mechanisms, and one of the things I find useful in my own work is asking that question: and I like to say was I a little better today than I was yesterday?

Joe: Amen.

Dan: Because a lot of progress is incremental.

Joe: Yeah. I’ve read recently not to confuse progress with speed.

Dan: Great point. I mean that’s a subject . . . that’s something all together different. Don’t confuse progress with speed. Don’t confuse activity with action. There are a lot of people moving around frantically engaging a lot of activity who actually aren’t doing anything.

Joe: No doubt about it. And and I love that you said just a little bit better because again one percent makes it so attainable. That was the idea–the law of marginal gains that I fell in love with, to just make it something where you can reasonably say even if you get off to a bad start that there’s progress that is possible.

Dan: The other thing–to try and take one more bite at this apple here–is that if I ask myself that question: “was a little better today than I was yesterday? Many times the answer is no. Okay? And that’s actually in some ways the most galvanizing answer, because it’s kind of a waste. Right? I am very frustrated and disappointed in myself when they answer is no, because I think to myself, “Come on! You know you’re not going to be on this planet forever. You’ve got all these great opportunities . . . you’re lucky to be here. You can do better man!” And a lot of times after the no I come back with a string of yesses.

Joe: Interesting. So then what do you usually find is the most current or the most frequent lever that pulls it from from a no to a yes?

Dan: Disappointment and frustration.

Joe: Really?

Dan: Yeah absolutely. I don’t think that it universal, I’m talking about my own about my own experience as one dude working in Washington D.C.

Joe: Yeah sure. And then when you when you feel frustrated, when you feel disappointment, what what simplistic or direct behaviors do you implement to make sure that tomorrow is a yes?

Dan: Well what I say is “you can do better than this.” You know? Because I can. Like if I put in the day where I don’t get a lot of work done or don’t do good work. That’s not good enough. You know? I can do better than that. And so I mean it’s a form, I guess, of self coaching. Whereas a great coach or a great teacher will be supportive but he or she will also say to a student or to an athlete, “you know what? You could play that game better. You are not playing your best. You know what? On the paper that you wrote for me. You’re you were phoning it in. You could have done a lot better than that.”

Joe: So in the first part of that you seemed to be talking about intrinsic motivation, which you certainly have, but then you go a little bit further and kind of suggest that coaching can begin to motivate someone. We’ve often heard that that idea that it’s hard to motivate another person. Do you buy that?

Dan: Totally. In fact, I mean you know one of the guys quoted one of the research quoted in the book is a guy named Edward Deci, one of the great scholars of motivation. And he says–I hate to give you sort of black and white answer because the answer really is nuanced–but what Deci says is that motivation isn’t something that somebody does to another person, it’s something that people do for themselves. So coaches and teachers, for instance the examples that I just used, they’re basically giving you information to create the conditions for which for which you can motivate yourself. If you’re doing something only to please a teacher or a coach that’s actually a very controlled form of motivation. But if you have a coach or teacher saying “you know what? Think about this you can do better than that.” All right. And they’re not saying you must do better than that in order to make me happy. They’re saying you know in your heart that you can do better than that. And I think that that creates a context for self-motivation.

Joe: So in that situation you’re setting up the conditions where feedback as you mentioned earlier is critical, and it’s it’s not so much, it’s not at all that you’re motivating the person, you’re presenting them with truthful information it sounds like.

Dan: Great, yeah. Perfectly said, yes. So there’s nuance here. And so you know so one of the things to understand I think about motivation in some of these border principles particularly when we think about something like autonomy. . . the real problem in a lot of misguided motivational systems is control. Okay? Human beings have only two responses to control. They comply or they defy. So if I’m a coach and I’m trying to control your behavior by sending things up so that the only thing driving your behavior is pleasing me, that’s a form of control, that is not an enduring solution. But if I’m a coach and I set up mechanisms and an environment and a context and as you say Joe, information that allows someone to see their performance in a different context and get information on how they’re doing and use that to motivate themselves, then that’s the best kind of coaching that there is.

Joe: It almost sounds like you’re hinting at that moment where when a coach or teacher, or a leader is “tough on someone” you often see the athlete or the performer react very favorably. As long as they know that there’s trust. Does that make sense?
Dan: Yeah . . . yeah . . . yeah. I think that toughness is relative, and I think that different people have different tolerance for toughness. So what’s tough to person A, is not going to be tough to person B. But yeah, I think that you know said the key word there which is truthfulness. That’s the key.

Joe: I also wanted to ask you about your 2009 Ted talk. Clicking in it at 18.4 million views. People seem to get something out of it to put it lightly, Dan. In that TED talk though, you make the case, from Oxford, that there’s a disconnect between what science knows about motivation and what business does, and maybe more to the point as well, education. And you know things like that. Eight years later how are we doing?

Dan: A little better. But not that much better. You know the key point to keep in mind here on this is that you know again it’s like we were talking about before, there’s some nuance. People always want things to be simple black and white, and the fact of the matter is that life is more complex nuanced and gray. And so the key takeaway from all of this motivation research is this: there’s a certain kind of reward we use in organizations- I call it an “if then” reward, if you do this then you get that. Research shows pretty clearly that “if then” rewards are reasonably effective for a simple short term work but they’re not very effective at all for more complex long-term work. And so what’s happening is that any organization is a mix of some simple and short-term and some complex and long-term. And so “if then” rewards work for one category but they don’t work at all for the category. I think the challenge is, and the science is very clear on that, where people where organizations especially run aground is that they use these rewards for everything rather than for that one category where they actually where they actually work. And so I do think that there remains this disconnect. But I think the disconnect is ever so slowly closing.

Joe: Well what would that kind of work calls for then is a leader who can be very dynamic, because they need to be able to go back and forth between what type of motivation, what type of environment to set up and as well as individualizing it for each performer.

Dan: Yeah, absolutely right. Exactly. So that’s one of the other thing about these certain kinds of external “if then” motivators is that they’re pretty easy. Whereas if you want to create the conditions that we were talking about before, how do you provide Joe information on how he is doing? How is it different from providing Dan information on how he’s doing? What level of autonomy does Joe need? What level of autonomy does Dan need? How do I spark Joe’s sense of purpose? How do I spark Dan’s? I mean that’s hard.

Joe: Oh it is. Exactly.

Dan: Yeah. And I think that’s another reason why people resort to these more, you know, simplistic off-the-shelf solutions.

Joe: You know you took the words out of my mouth. I was going to say it’s incredibly easy to be mediocre at that. And it’s just incredibly challenging to continue to strive, to optimize, and to kind of find the best solution. I can’t recommend that Ted talk enough . . in that TED talk you talk almost exclusively about autonomy. In just our closing minute here I’d love you to just touch on purpose. That’s the one that kind of, seems most difficult; it’s tied in with meaning. What can you say briefly? It’s autonomy, mastery, and purpose. But how would you underline purpose and its role in that in the process of motivation?

Dan: Yeah. I’ve sort of changed my view on this in recent years. Again, it’s become slightly more nuanced. I actually think there are two kinds of purpose as motivators. I like to think of them (I really couldn’t think of anything better) as “capital P, Purpose and small p purpose. Capital P purpose and small p purpose. Capital P purpose is you’re doing something big, transcendent world changing. So you know, “in my job I’m helping to end U.S. dependence on fossil fuels, I’m feeding the hungry,” something big and transcendent like that. And there are organizations and companies that, you know, have that embedded in their mission and research shows that’s a very effective form of motivation. The trouble is that most of us can’t access that kind of motivation every day. So this is where the second kind of purpose comes in. Which is small p purpose and that’s basically am I making a contribution? Am I doing something that makes someone’s life a little bit better? If I didn’t show up to work today would anybody actually care or would something not get done? And so and so that’s how you can think about purposes. Capital P is “am I making a difference? The small p is “am I making a contribution?” And both are enormously important. And on that, to your kind of framework with “One Percent Better” one of the tools for that (I don’t think it’s even in the book because I come up with later on), but it’s been really effective for myself as well is what I tell people, is that every week have two fewer conversations about “how” and two more “why.” So if your boss or teacher, you know, bosses and teachers have a lot of “how” conversations. Here’s how you make a sales call. Here’s how you do that presentation. But we give short shrift to “why.” And there is this rich body of evidence showing that it’s a very effective and very inexpensive performance enhancer. And so you know I think for teachers you know the teachers like to tell kids how to do a quadratic equation and when kids ask “why are we doing this?” They say “be quiet and do your quadratic equation. You know again it’s actually a good question, ‘why are we doing this?’” And so one of the things that I like to do with people that I work with even myself is again it’s one of those I think really like low weight no cost, one percent better solutions, stop myself during two how conversations and turn them into why conversations.

Joe: Yeah that’s a new idea for me. I love that. He’s @ @DanielPink on Twitter, a must follow. And you can find everything Dan Pink at http://www.danpink.com/ Dan, it’s hard for me to to to talk to you and say I didn’t get one percent better today, I thank you.

Dan: Thanks a lot Joe! I appreciate that.

Joe: He’s Dan Pink. He’s making us one percent better. Taking some time out of his day. His books are a must read. Go ahead and get Drive, A Whole New Mind and To Sell is Human. We thank Dan for joining us today.

Dan: My pleasure.

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The One Percent Better Podcast is Here

Many months ago I quietly announced that July 1st was my personal deadline to launch a podcast that I’ve been doing in my head for years. I am proud to say that with an incredible support unit, we made it.  Thanks to all of you who had a part in this.

I would be honored if you subscribed.

https://itun.es/i6dH3GK

Here’s to getting better every day!

–Joe

 

THE Podcast Logo

 

“I Don’t Discuss Playing Time”

What do you mean you don’t discuss playing time?

I hope you mean, “I don’t discuss playing time with an irate parent immediately following a game.”

I hope you mean, “I don’t discuss playing time with a boastful parent whose son just hit a walk-off single minutes ago, and now wants to tell me why he should have been a starter all along.”

I hope you mean, “I don’t discuss playing time with a parent who calls me on the phone and begins the conversation by threatening me or cursing at me.”

But you don’t. You mean that you don’t discuss playing time with parents as a rule. Your rule is, you don’t discuss playing time with a parent who is interested in finding out why their child isn’t playing more.

That’s a fireable offense.

Some of my friends have this rule. They need to change this rule.

Let’s make sure we are on the same page. If a parent approaches you calmly and asks you if you have some time soon to discuss his son Zach’s playing time, and your response is, “sorry Mr. Smith, I don’t discuss playing time,” that’s nonsense. That’s unacceptable. That’s fear.

I think the student-athlete should approach the coach first.  Unquestionably, many times the parent’s playing time wishes do not align with the student-athlete’s.  The life-skill practice of a young person advocating for himself, having an uncomfortable face-to-face conversation, and communicating his feelings to an adult with authority, is invaluable. But if the player-to-coach conversation does not yield clarity, a parent has the right to hear the coach’s philosophy on his child’s playing time.

I am not even sure what the counterargument could be.

As coaches we have power and responsibility.  Using these privileges to communicate our reasons and philosophies to our student-athletes’ families is not only part of our job, it’s a great way to build trust.

It can be said that telling the truth in a calm, reasoned way is the essential communication work of our profession.

This includes discussing playing time.

 

Here’s Something I’ve Noticed . . .

Very few people breathe on purpose.

When’s the last time you inhaled, then exhaled slowly, deliberately, without thinking about anything other than your breath?

If you cannot remember, now is a good time.

In for a three-count. Hold for a three-count. Out for a three-count.

That will make your day 1% better.

–JF

 

What is The One Percent Better Project?

web
Text @1better to 81010

I am flattered and honored to get to write a post explaining my obsession.

One Percent Better in one sentence: I send subscribers inspirational videos, articles, and original interviews weekly (sometimes more) for free.


Detailed version: For years I have prided myself in noticing things.  I have developed an intentional habit of seeking out information that inspires me, and makes my life better in countless ways.

Now I share it with you.

Think of me as your filter.  I have spent an obscene amount of time reading and listening to personal development content so that I can send you the best of the best.  The most inspiring, the most thought-provoking, the most actionable resources I can find.

I gravitate toward material that is passionate, authentic, and creative.  The content I send falls into one of three categories:

  1. Materials that when implemented will allow you to discover the power of marginal gains. Concepts like “Watering the Bamboo” and Dan Pink’s Pre-Mortem Technique.
  2. Strategies that have a lopsided results-to-effort ratio.  Simple tweaks that will yield sizable improvements. Fun things like how to cold brew coffee at home  or how to brine a turkey. Serious things like Steph Curry’s pregame routine.
  3. Original, focused interviews with leaders whom I admire.

My vision is clear, but for the first time in my life I have not scripted where this will journey will end.  I want to connect with as many people as I can to help change lives.  I want to interview people who live life with purpose, learn from leaders who inspire others, and speak to groups who want to get better. I hope to do it all with a sense of joy, authenticity, and often humor.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure.

Let’s get one percent better every day together.

 

An Interview: One Way to Finish the Season

Today is a short one.

I was thrilled to have been able to record a conversation with someone whom I admire.  In our casual talk, Coach Sandro Prosperino revealed one of the many things he does in his soccer program to sustain his winning culture. You won’t hear it from him, but he is one of the most dedicated coaches that I know, in any sport. Whether you lead in sports, business, or family, I think you will get something out of this interview.

Please let me know what you think.

Sandro Prosperino on Ending the Year with Closure

 

11 Podcast Episodes That Will Change Your Life

I admit to overusing the phrase “it will change your life.” Whether it’s Italian water ice , coffee , movies, books, or even pens , when I find something amazing, I love to share it with people.  Some people don’t agree that these kinds of things can be life changing, but if your obsession is like mine, to get one percent better each day,  you can see how immersing yourself in inspirational things that you love can change your life.

For the last seven years, one of the ways I have sought to change my life is to turn my commute into an opportunity to learn.  Frequently, colleagues comment on how my 45-minute commute to work is too far for them.  I can certainly understand their point, but soon after I began commuting, I had the realization that even while I drive, I can continue to grow.  Instead of listening to the radio, I tried podcasts, and they changed my life.  I cannot remember the first episode I listened to, but I also have not been able to forget countless others. They have inspired me, taught me, and made me think.  In the spirit of this blog and its mission of sharing ideas, I feel compelled to share them with you. Here is a list of podcasts episodes that have erased my commute, and changed my life. 

11 Life-Changing Podcast Episodes

For living a creative life.  “The Tim Ferriss Show” with director Robert Rodriguez. This episode offers an insider’s perspective on how to cultivate a life of creativity. His section on journaling makes you wish you could go back in time and write more things down. Episode here.

For building a winning culture. “ABCA Calls from the Clubhouse.”  Jeremy Sheetinger interviews Gary Gilmore, Head Coach of the 2016 National Champion Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.  His insight on building a winning culture transcends sports. This is a rare interview where the leader gives specific after specific on how he has created a juggernaut in South Carolina. Episode here.

For thinking about an issue you have never considered. Malcolm Gladwell’s  “Revisionist History” Episode 5.  After listening I had two immediate thoughts: I would sue Malcolm Gladwell if I were Vassar College, and I should have gone to Bowdoin . Both of these miss Gladwell’s larger point, but after you listen, tell me if you think I’m wrong. Episode here.

For the difference between goals and systems. Scott Adams on “The Tim Ferriss Show.” Scott is quickly becoming famous for something other than creating Dilbert –  his bold prediction that Donald Trump will win the election in a landslide.  But this episode has nothing to do with politics. Instead, Adams reveals the persuasion techniques that the best in the world use. He tells great stories that he details in his book  that I also highly recommend.  Episode here.

For learning the science of persuasion. Speaking of persuasion . . . here is the master of it, Robert Cialdini , on Jordan Harbinger’s “The Art of Charm.” Most people have never heard of Cialdini’s work, and it’s so good that I considered keeping this episode to myself. His science-backed strategies are so effective that they seem impossible to believe at times. Episode here.

For the value of relationships. “The Top Coach Baseball Podcast” with Jack Warren. My bias leans towards baseball, but every once in awhile you hear about a leader who has built such deep relationships that you wonder if you can ever measure up.  For instance, Head Coach Brian Shoop has attended 82 weddings of his former players. I’m speechless. Episode here.

For the power of simplicity in leadership.  The “The EntreLeadership Podcast” with former Notre Dame Head Coach Lou Holtz. Lou’s message almost seems too simple to work, except it has, time and time again.  Sure I was in my athletic prime at age 11 as a raving Notre Dame fan imagining I was Tony Rice, but that aside, the clarity of his message cuts through the clutter that can bog down today’s culture. Episode here.

For learning to make your own small dent in the universe. “The Moment with Brian Koppelman.”  Seth Godin episode. Brian is the most underrated interviewer in the world right now, which actually made it a difficult selection on which episode to choose. This is an artful conversation about what it means to create and give with generosity. If this is your first experience with two of my favorite creative people, prepare to take a deep dive into their work. Episode here.

For masterful storytelling.  “Mystery Show.” The Belt Buckle. I don’t know if Season Two will ever arrive, but this episode is incredible. No one I know goes looking for a podcast like this, but every one who listens to this story is amazed at its craft. Episode here.

For learning how to clarify your mission.  Ryan Hawk ‘s “The Learning Leader” with guest Donald Miller . Ryan is a marvel in the podcast game.  He recently released episode 159 and shows no signs of slowing down.  This episode with branding expert Miller has actionable takeaway after actionable takeaway. Episode here.

For learning how to give feedback. “Where there’s Smoke.” Stop, Look, Listen (Criticism) episode. This is a sneaky good episode from a podcast that is under the radar of many listeners. The exercise host Brett Gajda uses to demonstrate the difference between feedback and criticism is as useful an idea as I’ve heard this year. Episode here.

I created this blog as a place to share ideas.  Email me with the episodes that I have overlooked.

Happy listening.


Joe Ferraro  co-hosts a podcast that his immediate family thinks is life-changing.