By: Chuck Frey
NYT best-selling author Dan Pink shares some valuable insights into the new paradigm of creative work in this Business Thought Leader interview.
Creativity in Business Thought Leader Series interview number 11 is with celebrated New York Times best-selling author, Dan Pink. Dan is the prolific author of several provocative books about the changing world of work, including Drive, A Whole New Mind, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, and Free Agent Nation.
Dan’s latest book, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us has been called “an integral addition to a growing body of literature calling for a radical shift in how businesses operate” (Kircus) and “a new model of motivation that offers tremendous insight into our deepst nature.” (Publishers Weekly) A must-read for anyone who wants to create an innovative work culture!
Q. How does your work relate to creativity?
Pink: I like to think that what I do itself requires creativity. But what’s probably more important is that the arguments in my books are in some senses arguments for creativity. For instance, in A Whole New Mind, I argue that routine, rule-based, “left brain” abilities, such as simple accounting, basic computer programming and so forth, have become easy to outsource and easy to automate. That makes abilities that are hard to send overseas or reduce to software – for example, artistry, empathy, and big picture thinking – more valuable.
Q. What do you see as the emerging paradigm of work?
Pink: It’s non-routine. That is, you can’t reduce it to script, a formula, an algorithm or a series of steps that lead to a correct answer. It’s multi-disciplinary. It involves elements of design, empathy, and symphonic thinking. It’s self-directed rather than “managed.” And it’s animated by a sense of purpose.
Q. What is the role of creativity in that paradigm?
Pink: It’s threaded through the entire fabric. If you look at the work and the abilities that are disappearing, or at least becoming less important, they’re the antithesis of creativity – routine, rule-based, single discipline, and managed. The defining work of the 21st century is conceptual, empathic and big picture.
Q. What attitudes are essential for effectively navigating the new paradigm?
Pink: At the heart is a sense of intrinsic motivation – doing something not for the extrinsic rewards it brings, but for the inherent satisfaction of the task itself. Beyond that, it demands a sense of autonomy and self-direction as well as a yearning to get better at something that matters – all of which are pointed toward a cause larger than one’s self.
Q. What is one approach for bringing more creativity into work and business?
Pink: One of my favorites comes from the Australian software company Atlassian. Once a quarter, they say to their software developers: “For the next 24 hours, go work on whatever you want, any way you want, with whomever you want.” All the company asks is that people show what they’ve created to the rest of the company at the end of those 24 hours. They call these things “FedEx Days,” because you have to deliver something overnight. It turns out that those one-day bursts of intense, undiluted autonomy have produced more innovation and creativity than just about anything else the company has done.
Q. What is Creative Leadership to you?
Pink: It’s providing the context and environment that allows people to do their best work and then getting out of their way.
You can engage with Dan Pink in person about the concepts in Drive at the Interactive Dialogue with Dan Pink event in Washington, DC on March 11, 2010. The Creativity in Business Thought Leader Interviews are conducted by business creativity catalyst Michelle James, CEO of The Center for Creative Emergence.