More doesn’t mean better. In fact, it can mean worse.

A few months ago, I was chatting with a headhunter – no, not the South American type, but one who hunts in the concrete jungle. He places top people into top jobs in the City of London, the beating financial heart of the capital. Think huge salaries, big bonuses and corner offices with walls of glass. “So,” I said, “what makes them move? Is it the chance of even bigger salaries and bonuses?” He didn’t even pause to think. “It’s never about money. Never. Ever.” Surprised? I was too. Surely you can never have enough zeroes on the end of your bank balance or big fat carrots on sticks at the end of the month? Apparently you can. For after a certain point, money fails to motivate. And that point is not as far down the line as you might think. For even high-flyers in the City are motivated by lesser things. Like real challenges, new horizons and things that keep them fresh, alert and engaged. What makes people tick is at the heart of Dan Pink’s talk, which I’ve just finished watching. The surprising science of motivation was delivered to TED Global in Oxford during the summer. Here’s what I took away from it:
  • Larger rewards almost always lead to worse results.
  • Incentives dull thinking and block creativity.
  • The key to the 21st century can be summed up in three words: autonomy, mastery and purpose.
  • Google ‘gets’ it (that’s why we have Gmail, Orkut and Google News).
But I don’t want to spoil the talk by giving too much away. Grab a skinny latte, put your feet up and treat yourself to 18 minutes and 36 seconds of entertainment, insights and sticking candles to walls (no, really – trust me). If you’re reading this in an email and can’t see the video, click here instead: The surprising science of motivation. Enjoy.