Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A False Assumption

We are born into this world with an urge to learn, grow and move beyond what we have already attained. This is evident in every toddler, every young child, - until and unless their curiosity is stymied, (by whatever means).

As a species, if we did not have this urge to learn and grow we would die. We need to learn about our environment and how to respond for our very survival; to defend ourselves against danger, to provide sustenance and shelter, to belong and be a part of a family or tribe. The brain is hard-wired to learn and to improve, to build a library of information from which to understand and respond to our world. Yet, it is interesting to observe how adept we as a society are at quelling this curiosity, this natural urge to grow and be better! Why? Because we operate from a basic assumption that children, and indeed adults, are innately lazy and do not naturally want to learn or do better.

As a result, we believe we need to direct, to coerce, to bribe, to threaten and generally to find ways to force learning, know-how, and proficiency. We do it in our schools, by coercing children to learn what we think they should learn, when we think they should learn it, with little or no regard for their intrinsic motivation, unique interests, or individual developmental readiness. We continue to compel and impose our agenda, removing any autonomy they might develop up through the years and into adulthood, as we insist on ‘managing’, often micro-managing employees and others, coercing them with incentives or ‘carrots’ to do what we want them to do – or penalizing them for not, as the case may be. All of this we do because we have this basic assumption; we assume that most human beings are innately lazy, unmotivated and need to be coerced and prodded if any learning or improvement is going to take place.

As I am sure I have in common with many of you, since I was a child, I have known this assumption to be false. And over and over again I have been witness to just how false it is. As those of you who have done my work know, the steps to freedom from this assumption are embedded in there! And now, great news, there is a N.Y.T. Bestseller DRIVE by Dan Pink, that offers the research and anecdotal evidence that prove it! At last, in mainstream publishing we have some really great arguments and a hugely persuasive case for autonomy – and for mastery (yeah!) and purpose (of course!). All completely intertwined with (yes, you guessed it) emotional intelligence. (I know I recommended it a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating.)

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us If you don’t have time to read the book, at least check out a 15 minute talk by the author: at


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