Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Danger: don't read this blog

"If you want people to perform better, you reward them. Right?"

That's Dan Pink speaking. He goes on to say that there is a gross mismatch between what science knows and what business does. What? Because in answer to his question he reveals that

actually dull thinking and
block creativity.

"Rewards don't work and often do harm."

"This is NOT philosophy. This is NOT a feeling. This is a fact--or as we say in Washington DC,

'a true fact.'"

Dan Pink has a new book coming out: DRIVE. It is about the science of motivation.

Two friends sent me links to Dan Pink's TED talk on the same day: Bubba Levy here in Houston and Tom Larsen in San Francisco. And a few days later, Emily Hansen sent me this from the New York Times: "When a parent's 'I love you" means "do as I say.'"

Same idea.

I guess most of us got the idea at home from our parents and pass it on to our children, so it is no wonder that we run our businesses this way and describe it as "The Real World".


Does motivation really mean getting your child or your employee to do what you want him to do?

Dan Pink quotes the scientific research. Rewards only work to improve performance if the task is simple. If it is complex, or requires creative thinking, "rewards don't work and often do harm."

And what harm do rewards and punishment do to children? Check out the Times.


  1. I was going to mention Alfie Kohn, but saw that he is the one who wrote the Times article! I havne't taken a look at your blog, but I would highly recommend people read "Punished by Reward" by Alfie Kohn.

    I completely agree that a rewards system can be harmful, also for another really important reason: it hinders intrinsic desire. The idea is to get children to do things becuase they want to, not because they know they will get the carrot at the end of the stick. This is especially important in the classroom. If you teach the way you should, and inspire your students to want to seek knowledge, then you have helped them to become lifelong learners.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Seattle. I see you are following a number of Montessori blogs and hope that you become a regular reader here...I write regularly when the demands of my day job allow.