Motivating workers key to utilising resources in post-oil world, Crown Prince’s majlis hears

Rewards like money are great for simple and short-term tasks, but not for complex and long ones, author Daniel Pink told a majlis on Wednesday.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, at Wednesday night’s Ramadan lecture in his majlis by bestselling author Daniel Pink, titled ‘The New Science of Human Motivation’. Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi
Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // In a post-oil world, motivation is essential for tapping into one of our greatest resources – the human potential, an American author told a Ramadan majlis on Wednesday night.

Speaking at the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Ramadan majlis, Daniel Pink, who wrote the best-selling book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, summarised 50 years of social science on the topic during a lecture titled The New Science of Human Motivation.

Rewards such as money were great for simple and short-term tasks, Pink explained, but they were not so great for complex and long-term tasks.

“Intrinsic motivation doesn’t mean that humans like rewards any less. Those kind of motivations are great,” he said.

“When you reward behaviour, you get more of it sometimes. When you punish behaviour, you get less of it sometimes.”

While this motivation strategy often works, Pink tried to recalibrate the audience’s understanding of motivation. Great rewards sometimes result in good performance, but not always, he said.

“Once the task called for even rudimentary cognitive skills, a larger reward led to a poor performance,” said Pink.

Money is not the most powerful motivator, he said, particularly in a post-oil economy built on ­human creativity.

“People need to be paid well. That is fairness, but this is a threshold motivator,” he said.

Pink listed the components of what he called a motivation formula, which was described in his book and included autonomy, mastery and purpose.

“When people are paid fairly, self direction, mastery and a sense of purpose can engage and stimulate people to do their best work,” the author said.

“The secret to high performance and satisfaction in life is the ­deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.”

Pink summarised his points by saying that the ideal approach for motivation began with paying people well and treating them fairly. Next, it involved creating work environments that have the three components in his motivation formula.

Having autonomy meant that people had some amount of sovereignty over what they did, when they did it and with whom they did it, Pink said.

People have mastery when they can progress in their careers and feel they are improving their abilities in something that matters.

Those who had purpose felt that they were able to make a difference or a contribution in the work, he said.

Pink described the difference between what science taught about motivation and what businesses practised. He said the UAE was doing well in that regard, yet more people could be motivated in their jobs.

“Three out of 10 people are engaged in their job in the UAE,” Pink said. “But can you imagine what we could do if we motivated the other 70 per cent?

“Fortunately, science tells us how to create organisations that do a better job of motivating workers.”

Sheikh Mohammed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, attended the lecture, as well as Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed, Chairman of the Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation Board of Trustees, Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, Speaker of the Federal National Council, and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development.