Tuesday, July 5, 2011

5 Questions for Dan Pink

I became aware of Dan Pink when a colleague of mine introduced me to his book, "A Whole New Mind". Having an appetite for business journalism, I was constantly seeking new professional motivation via the printed page. Mr. Pink's book provided a shocking reassurance. His description:
Lawyers, Accountants, Computer programmers. That's what our parents encouraged us to become when we grew up. But Mom and Dad were wrong. The future belongs to a very different type of person with a very different kind of mind.

He goes on to describe how right brain thinkers (me) will rule the world. He was right. Mom and Dad were wrong....that's all I needed to hear.

A lawyer by degree, Dan Pink has a knack for enticing healthy debate. This trait served him perfectly in his break through presentation at TED. In this presentation, Mr Pink introduced the concept of his latest book, Drive. Where "A Whole New Mind" challenged the relevance of formal education to one's professional motivation, "Drive" promotes education in the workplace. In debunking the carrot and stick process of motivation, Dan Pink frustrated the less inventive thinkers in the incentive industry and opened the door for a new breed of motivators...focused on the process of education as the greater goal to long term development.

Dan Pink afforded me a few minutes on the 4th of July 2011. He is an all-American guy who is willing to take time away from the parade for his admiring public.

1. I loved the concept of Symphony in "A Whole New Mind". Do you have a formula for bringing consistency to seemingly unrelated events?

No. I think it's less of a formula and more of a general attitude. Are you open to new ideas -- no matter where they come from? Are you reading in areas outside your own professional expertise? Are you talking to a wide range of people? When you put together a team, do you make sure there are diverse viewpoints? People who make this sort of behavior habitual generally do pretty well on Symphony.

2. In “Drive” you challenge the carrot and stick formula of prize for performance. How has this message been received by HR professionals?

So far, the response has been great. But I think HR professionals are more astute on these matters than many others in organizations -- because the very best among them spend their time and energy working on talent. They know that money does matter to talent -- but that it's not ultimately what gets them up in the morning. HR professionals can be hugely important ambassadors in bringing the science of motivation inside of organizations.

3. How important is Empathy in leadership?

It's hugely important. It's very hard to lead without being able to see the world through the eyes of those your leading. That's especially true for creative teams. And it's doubly true for the growing ranks of people who are leaders but who don't have much formal authority -- and therefore must rely on influence rather than command. There's also some recent research, led by Adam Galinsky at Northwestern University, that shows that as people accumulate power, they're less likely to see the world from another's perspective, which can often hamper their abilities to get others to go along with them. Leadership turns out to be a very delicate balance between action-orientation and perspective-taking. Too much of one rarely works.

4. Why have some companies simplified the process of education in the workplace down to product knowledge?

It's easier -- and they know how to do it. Plain and simple.

5. You are one of the most recognized business authors of our time yet you always make time to respond to your readers. How do you balance this?

Hmmm. I'll resist my lawyerly instinct to disagree with your premise and instead thank you for the overly generous assessment. On the matter of responding to readers, it's not all that complex. First, I like it. I learn a heckuva lot from readers and I always appreciate hearing from them. Second, it's the right thing to do. If someone spends 10 or 15 dollars and several hours of their time reading one of my books, the least I can do is spend zero dollars and five minutes of my time responding to their question. To me, what's weird is that everybody doesn't do this.

To find out more on all things Pink visit: http://www.danpink.com/

Don't Forget to Remember!

- Dave

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