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Five Questions for Daniel H. Pink

Susan Notes:

We need to preach this rethink your assumptions message to the corporate politicos. Certainly parents will appreciate our acknowledging that their kids aren't inert slugs. People must rethink their assumptions about students. They are not passive vessels into which teachers must pour information.

If you begin with the premise that human beings are fundamentally passive and inert--that but for the threat of a stick or the enticement of carrot, they wouldn't do much--that points you toward one set of policies and practices.

Those "other policies and practices" are at the core of the Obama/Duncan reign of terror. We must tell our stories, which David Berliner rightly calls data, about the policies and practices which draw on students' natural tendency to be active and engaged.

I echo Pink in saying Read Deci.

by The New Yorker blog

Daniel Pink, the author of this month's book-club selection, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, is also the author of the best-selling Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself, A Whole New Mind, in which he argues that the "left-brain dominance" that gave rise to the Information Age is being replaced by a world that favors right-brain qualities—"inventiveness, empathy, meaning"—and The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, which has the distinction of being the first American manga-style business book. Before turning full-time to writing, Dan worked in the White House as a speechwriter for Vice-President Gore. He still lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and their three children. You can learn more about Dan on his Web site, where he's also collected several of his articles and videos.

What surprising truth motivated you to write "Drive"?

I was surprised by how vast the research was on human motivation—and how much it overturned orthodoxies I didn’t even realize were orthodoxies.

What books would you recommend as background or supplementary reading?

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The Handbook of Self-Determination Research, by Edward Deci and Richard M. Ryan
Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development, by Carol Dweck
The Human Side of Enterprise, by Douglas McGregor

What do you hope members of this book club will take away from your book?

I hope this book helps readers to rethink their assumptions about other people. If you begin with the premise that human beings are fundamentally passive and inert--that but for the threat of a stick or the enticement of carrot, they wouldn't do much--that points you toward one set of policies and practices. But if you begin with another (to my mind, more accurate) assumption--that it's our nature to be active and engaged--that leads you down a very different road, one that's actually more effective.

If you had a book club, what book would you choose to read?

John Richardson's ginormous three-volume (and soon to be four-volume) biography of Pablo Picasso. I'd love to get inside Picasso's head—to understand how he almost single-handedly changed the course of twentieth-century art, how he developed both the urge and the ability to push boundaries, and how he stayed astonishingly productive into his eighties.

Do you have any rules for writing?

1. Show up. Get to work even when you don't feel like writing--especially when you don't feel like writing.

2. Write every day. Regaining momentum takes three times as much energy as sustaining momentum. (Look it up: It's a law of literary physics.)

3. Don't do anything else until you've written five hundred words.

4. Move. Some of my best ideas come when I'm climbing the stairs of my house or running in my neighborhood.

5. Once you've produced a semi-credible draft of a section or chapter, have someone read it to you aloud. Hearing your words will make you rethink--and sometimes regret—them.

6. Remember that writing, though solitary, is also social. You’re making a promise to readers. Honor that promise.

7. These rules work for me. Your mileage may vary.

— Daniel Pink interview
New Yorker blog



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