The microphone turned on and the buzz of excitement came to a hush as Kathleen Duncan, assistant professor of management, appeared before the crowd to introduce the evening’s speaker.
At 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Campus Center Ballroom, students, faculty and community gathered to hear the words of Daniel H. Pink, the author of four best-selling books and revolutionist on changing the world of the workplace.
The evening was titled “Coffee, Cake and Conversation,” and roughly 100 individual treats could be smelt throughout the large room.
Pink’s last job was in the White House as chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, but now works as a free agent to influence the minds of millions.
It was about five years ago when Professor of Organizational Leadership Carol Sawyer, met Pink at a book signing for his piece, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainer Will Rule the Future.”
Sawyer asked that he come to La Verne and speak to the students and community and as a man of his word, Pink kept his promise. Pink cut straight to the topic of the evening and directed the audience’s attention to the screen where he had “The Candle Problem.” The task was for an individual to use a candle, matches and a box of tacks to adhere the candle to the wall without wax dripping onto the table.
After much confusion and laughing from the crowd, Pink placed an image on the screen with the box tacked to the wall and the candle standing upright inside of the box.
The task had been achieved, but only after the tacks were removed from the box, allowing an extra element to enter the mix. To put into simple terms, it became easier.
“Offer me a hundred bucks and you got my attention, I’ll do whatever you want as long as the steps are before me to complete,” Pink said.
“But if you offer me a hundred bucks with complicated steps that demand creative performance, I’m forced out of my tunnel vision approach and won’t be able to complete the task.”
Throughout the remaining time of the lecture, Pink introduced numerous companies and instances where this “rule” was put to work and had great success. One of the examples was of an Australian company called Atlasium.
One Thursday out of each quarter, the company sends out an e-mail to the employees asking them to create something. Their project can be anything they want with or without a partner and is due the next day.
They call the operation “FedEx Days” because the individual must make a delivery overnight.
Many experts also refer to this as “20-percent projects” where the company only uses a small percent of their time to allow their employees to release their creative zest.
Thousands of ideas have come about because of “20-percent projects. Google News and Gmail were created this way and have become a huge part in everyday life.
“A person must have three elements to ensure motivation. Autonomy, mastery and purpose,” Pink said.
With those three tools, Pink says anyone can create complex and innovative work and they they will enjoy every step of the process.
“Fear is a very good motivator to get out of a burning building, not a way to create innovative work,” Pink said.
“A person must believe they are part of something larger only then they will have the desire to achieve greatness.”
“I think a lot of what he said was very true,” MBA student Cindy Chang said.
“His take on what truly motivates people is interesting and not what you would think in many cases.”
Samantha Sincock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.