In his talk “Surprising Science of Motivation”that took place in 2009, Dan Pink talks about motivation, but not about usual concepts of motivation and how to ultimately motivate people. The speaker (2009) describes motivational intrinsic and extrinsic aspects, in order to highlight, that the things we consider to be motivational are actually not. Moreover, not only do they not motivate people to perform better, these ways to motivate people, actually get people in a position where their performance is worse, in comparison to no extrinsic motivation at all. Thus, Dan states, there is a big difference between what science knows and what business does. Management as we know it and management tools that we know and use are not natural, they are artificial, we have created them, in order to help us cope with our daily tasks and to help us perform better and show better results at what we do. However, this may be true only for a certain set of conditions. Dan Pink (2009) explains, that extrinsic motivators only work in case of a simple task to be fulfilled, which predicts only one solution, and the solution must be obvious. Meaning, motivation, in a form of bonuses and rewards, is only successful and useful when applied to people performing plain tasks, that do not require any creativity, critical thinking or any thinking whatsoever; it is only productive for operational work.
Developed by Karl Dunker, the candle problem experiment, among many others, lead scientists to the following conclusion, that creative performance worsens when there is an extrinsic motivator. Candle problem is very simple, a participant is given a candle, a set of matches and the box of tacks and is asked to attach the candle to the wall in a way that the wax is not dripping onto the table. Two groups of people have been selected to participate, first one is a control group, to measure the average time for the problem to be solved; second one was promised a reward, in case the task was finished faster. The second group did tremendously worse than the first group. Similar tests have shown identical results, which led scientists and Dan Pink to the conclusion that motivation, as we know, does not work, it is obsolete. Dan Pink, in his speech in 2009, identifies new conditions that enhance people's performance.
The three factors that have the greatest contribution are autonomy, mastery and purpose. He argues, that people who were granted autonomy in completing the task, tend to perform better, rather then under strict boundaries. Mastery is one of the key components must be mastery, since a person should strive for perfection and thus, improve constantly. And the last, but not the least, purpose, a person has to see a purpose for what he does. All these things are intrinsic factors, that have a stronger impact on people, than any extrinsic motivator. Dan Pink believes, that when business stops using the model, that doesn't work and recognizes what science knows, the world can change to become a better place to live and work.