Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Pink, Daniel H.

Pink takes a look at much the same evidence base as Lawrence and Nohria do in Driven with a slightly different purpose. His take is that organizations rely too heavily on extrinsic motivators (carrots and sticks) at the expense of tapping into much more powerful intrinsic motivators. He is less interested in building a robust model of human behavior in organization than he is in trying to distill some practical short term advice. It makes for an easier read than Driven and Pink is a much better story-teller than Lawrence and Nohria. On the other hand, it sacrifices some important depth in the process.

Pink was also a speaker at last year’s TED conference; the video from that talk gives you the gist of his argument in 20 minutes:

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The War of Art

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Pressfield, Steven


I recently finished Seth Godin‘s excellent new book Linchpin (see Choosing to Draw Your Own Maps for my review). In it, he devotes a central chapter to the notion of resistance and how we get in our own way in the pursuit of our goals. Godin recommended Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art for more insight.

I’m sure the fact that the book has been lurking in my ‘to read’ stack for several years is deeply meaningful.

Godin’s recommendation was enough to push Pressfield’s book to the top of that stack. If you find that you can be your own worst enemy facing creative work, don’t take as long as I did to get to this short but deeply insightful book. Pressfield is the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and, more recently, has been blogging at Steven Pressfield Blog. The War of Art is an extended reflection by Pressfield on the practical challenges of creating.

Pressfield breaks his book into three sections. In the first, he takes a close look at resistance and the myriad ways it works to keep us from trying and carrying on. Ways both obvious and devious. For all the legitimate barriers and delays and excuses, resistance ultimately boils down to self-sabotage; our lizard-brain trying to protect us from fears it cannot understand or articulate.

In the second section, Pressfield offers his answer – turn pro. Show up and do the work. Forget about inspiration. Pressfield has good company here. Here’s a sampling of advice from various creative pros, all with the same fundamental message:

Anyone who waits to be struck with a good idea has a long wait coming. If I have a deadline for a column or a television script, I sit down at the typewriter and damn well decide to have an idea.

Andy Rooney

The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas

Linus Pauling

I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at none o’clock sharp.

Somerset Maugham

For all the advertisements and enticements promising instant gratification, we all know that it’s really about doing the work. And this is true whether the work is carpentry or sculpture. Pressfield lays out the following qualities that distinguish a professional from an amateur:

  1. We show up every day
  2. We show up no matter what
  3. We stay on the job all day
  4. We are committed over the long haul
  5. The stakes for us are high and real
  6. We accept remuneration for our labor
  7. We do not overidentify with our jobs
  8. We master the technique of our jobs
  9. We have a sense of humor about our jobs
  10. We receive praise or blame in the real world.

(The War of Art. pp.69-70)

In the final section, Pressfield reveals the payoff of facing resistance with professionalism. He elects to couch it in spiritual terms, but substitute your own terms if that troubles you. Here’s the payoff to professionalism:

Because when we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen. A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Unseen forces enlist in our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose.

This is the secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. we have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. ideas comes. Insights accrete.

(The War of Art. p. 108)

We can’t  control how the world will react to what we create. All we can control is whether we show up to do the work and whether we have mastered the tools of our craft. Pressfield’s promise is that if we do our part, the Universe will notice and may help.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love offers a similar perspective in a talk she gave at TED last year:


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Applying End-to-End Design Principles in Social Networks

Partial map of the Internet based on the Janua...

Image via Wikipedia

 Andy Lippman, at MIT’s Media Lab, offers provocative examples of learning how to think in network terms when designing services in a recent blog post from the Communications Futures Program at MIT. At the very heart of the Internet’s design is a notion called the end-to-end principle (pdf). The best network is one that treats all nodes in the network identically and pushes responsibility for decisions out to the nodes. Creating special nodes in the network and centralizing decisions in those nodes makes the network as a whole work less well.

In this essay, Lippman explores that notion by looking at examples of existing and potential services in telecommunications networks that could be improved by trusting the end-to-end principle more fully. Lippman takes a look at emergency services such as 911 calls in the US. As currently designed, these services allow individuals to reach a centralized dispatch center in the event of an emergency.

Emergencies are no longer solely about getting help for a fire or heart attack. Nor are they purely personal affairs, directed at or for a single individual. Consider the recent attempted attack on a Detroit-bound airplane where passengers provided the service (saving the plane). Early reports portrayed this as a fine solution. Indeed, there is discussion that the best result of increased airline security is that it has made people aware of the fact that they all have to pitch in to help when it is needed; they can no longer just rely on a remote entity a site to solve the problem for them.

End-to-End Social Networks
Andy Lippman
Fri, 01 Jan 2010 21:10:36 GMT

Lippman makes the point that we can benefit from thinking about ways to mobilize the network as a whole as an alternative to using it to direct messages to some centralized authority. Continuing to impose hierarchical notions on top of network designs risks missing other, potentially more powerful, options. We have a set of powerful new tools and ideas that we have yet to fully exploit.

The design reasoning that underlies the engineering of the Internet is applicable in organizational settings as well. Lippman’s examples are a good place to start in thinking how to apply them effectively.

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Choosing to draw your own maps: a review of Seth Godin’s Linchpin

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Godin, Seth

Seth Godin continues his quest to become the next Tom Peters. Linchpin is the latest installment of Godin’s advice to today’s knowledge workers and aspiring entrepreneurs. Here he shifts his focus from broader issues of marketing to the individual.

Godin is the latest in a long line of thinkers who’ve been arguing that the way we’ve designed and organized the current economic system has reached its limits and needs fixing. Godin is less interested in where the system as a whole is going, than in what you as an individual can do to carve out a more satisfying perch now.

The economy of the twentieth century was 0.01% insight, 0.09% design, and 99% execution. Mass production begat mass markets begat mass media. What that system demands is an occasional new idea plus a way to turn out lots of copies. There’s a playbook and most people have a tightly prescribed assignment to follow. Color outside the lines and the system, by design, will grind you up and spit you out.

In the economic system that has been slowly emerging over the last several decades, the proportions between insight, design, and execution are shifting. Insight and design, always important, become more so. Equally important, the system as a whole operates at a higher speed. It makes less sense to invest heavily in optimizing for execution in a business model that will become obsolete in a few years. What this all leads to is a need for more people who can see a bigger picture of how their world hooks into the broader system and can improvise when the unexpected inevitably occurs. In Godin’s parlance – linchpins.

There are two particular strengths in Godin’s approach. One, he’s very clear that choosing to act as a linchpin will entail a great deal of both intellectual and emotional work. This is not about visualizing all the good things you wish would flow in your direction. This is about grasping how the system is evolving and seizing the opportunities it opens up.

Because change is occurring throughout the system, seizing opportunities is not constrained to an elite, however you choose to define the elite. We’re all equipped to see and exploit opportunities to make things work better. We are all capable, as Godin puts it, of "creating order out of chaos." There’s certainly more than enough chaos to work with.

The second strength of Godin’s approach is in focusing on the emotional work it will take to become and succeed as a linchpin. Fitting into a carefully defined role is safe and imposes little apparent emotional cost. Choosing to look freshly at the territory and draw new maps is scary. Explorers end up with arrows in their backs. Godin understands this and devotes a key central chapter to dealing with resistance. Significantly, he locates the primary source of resistance in our own hearts and minds. He opens this chapter with Steve Jobs’s admonition that "real artists ship." Excuses are easier to deal with than feedback on finished work, so we become adept at handling excuses instead of finishing.

Godin stays true to his argument and does not offer a step-by-step action plan. That, as they say in math class, is  left as an exercise for the reader.


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Does the CIO have a role in successful social media adoption?

Like everyone else who’s awake, my long-time friend and colleague Keri Pearlson and I have been trying to make sense out of the uptake of new "social" technologies into organizations. We are noodling on the hypothesis that the CIO represents the best choice if an organization wants to develop a social technology strategy that is both effective and reasonably efficient in the demands it exacts on the organization.

Saying the Dell or P&G has a social technology strategy is a common shorthand that obscures a more important truth. There are real people in specific roles who take on the responsibility for developing and deploying the collection of initiatives and programs that get labeled as an organization’s social technology strategy. The specific people and the particular functions involved greatly influence the success or failure of these initiatives

Some manager in marketing experiments with Twitter or a fan page on Facebook. A lawyer in the general counsel’s office raises a concern about whether an employee comment on Twitter creates a liability for the corporation. A divisional general who still has his assistant print out his email traffic creates a task force to develop a corporate social media policy proposal. While there may be no right answer for how an organization handles social media, these choices matter. The hypothesis that we are considering is this:

The CIO represents an excellent choice for who should coordinate an organization’s approach to social media/social networking.

Why we think this is a reasonable hypothesis

From an IT manager’s perspective, the technologies of social media/social networking appear quite simple. They are either web services hosted outside the firewall or they are very simple new capabilities hosted on internal servers. Compared with the complexities of a global ERP system, a distributed point-of-sale system, or a terabyte-scale data warehouse, social media/social networking capabilities are technologically trivial. Why then are they a problem relevant to the IT function? Why not simply let ownership and management of these capabilities reside in the business?

First, much of the value in social media/social networking lies in the masses of data they generate. Whether in the content of employees at Microsoft blogging internally or publicly about their work or in the network linkage data embedded in the interactions among customers and customer service staff using @ComcastCares on Twitter, there are masses of data to be managed and manipulated. IT knows and understands the issues that arise when dealing with data on this scale. Moreover, they understand how to filter through and extract insight from this data.

Second, there is huge potential value in connecting activity in social networking venues to specific business process steps embedded in the current enterprise support environment. This too constitutes an area where IT’s existing perspectives add value as social media/networking activity moves from experiment to operating at scale.

Third, many of the issues with social media/social networking cross functional boundaries in the organization. IT as a group routinely handles cross-functional issues in designing and deploying other technology around the organization. They will have established relationships with the right people around the organization and they will be sensitive to the kinds of organizational issues that arise in cross-functional undertakings.

The general point is that experiments with these technologies will occur naturally in multiple spots throughout the organization. As these experiments grow in scale and scope the particular management challenges that will appear fall squarely in the sweet spot of the IT function.

What we’re doing next

Organizational work is messy and complex. Social technologies are messy and complex. Put the two together and you have mess squared.

What that means is that there aren’t any maps and there aren’t any checklists. There is no cookbook or operating manual to follow. Not yet, at any rate.

The appropriate research strategy now is to capture and start to understand the messy stories of what is actually going on. It is too soon to strip the story down to its essentials, because we can’t yet differentiate critical step from colorful detail.

We are looking to develop case studies of what organizations are actually doing. At this point, it is premature to be distilling these stories into a coherent and over simplified narrative. For now, it is enough to get multiple stories of successful, failed, and too soon to tell efforts. Comparing and contrasting those stories will begin to reveal the patterns of what matters. if you’re interested, drop one of us a line or leave us a comment.

Hans Rosling at TED India: making time visible

I’m turning into a bit of a Hans Rosling groupie, having blogged about several of his previous performances at TED conferences (Hans Rosling talk on world economic development myths and realities and More insights from Hans Rosling at TED 2007). Most recently, he presented at TED India. He’s a wonderful story teller and watching his material is its own class in better story telling. Watching his videos is one of those great twofers you get from the best teachers – insights into both his material and his technique. Here he takes a look at what the deep data trends have to tell us about Asia’s economic future.

Hans Rosling: Asia’s Rise – How and When – TED India


A version of the tool that Rosling uses for his data analysis and display is available at Gapminder World.

Patti Anklam on The Year of Personal Net Work

Patti Anklam and I have reconnected after first meeting several years ago. We navigate in the same circles and our networks overlap, but I hadn’t been carefully following her work. My mistake and I’ve fixed that now. Here’s a recent piece from her with a very good overview presentation on moving from a general understanding of networks to concrete actions. Worth taking a look at both for the content and for some good ideas on presentation design.

Chris Brogan writes about his strategy for deepening his personal networks. He starts off his list of tips with this one:

"Devote two hours a week to this effort. If, out of the 60 hours an average person works, you can t find two for this, reconsider how you re running your day.

This is not the only new year’s resolution I’ve seen along this line. As we become more and more connected through social media, the more we are aware of what those connections mean.

My new year’s resolution? I’m resolving to share more of my thinking, especially about personal networks. Here’s a slide show from this past October I hope you will enjoy.

Personal Network Management Km Forum Oct 2009

The Year of Personal Net Work
Tue, 12 Jan 2010 20:52:00 GMT