Daniel Pink’s Unrewarding Presentation

Periodically the engagement industry (also known as the incentive industry, motivation industry, premium industry, etc.) faces challenges from outside sources. These sources typically are academics/authors many of whom do a fair amount of public speaking to promote their work. While it would not be fair to make the blanket claim that their assertions are baseless it would be accurate in the vast majority of situations to say that those claims are at best misleading and at worst harmful.

Case in point, most recently Daniel Pink, author, public speaker and former Al Gore speech writer, made a presentation at a TED (Technology Entertainment Design) event in which he stated that motivational techniques:

  • dull thinking
  • block creativity
  • do harm
  • only work for simple tasks

He further stated that these findings were “fact” and then went on to cite some extremely random samples. I should mention that he confessed at the beginning of his presentation that he did terrible in law school, finishing at or near the bottom of his class. Based on his shoddy extrapolations and conclusions I can see why. I know that seminar speakers need to stir up their audiences to keep things lively, and telling business leaders that they have everything backwards is one way to accomplish this, but it is dangerous to present opinions as facts and then advise people how to run their businesses.

I’ll leave it there for now but will post specific challenges to his assertions in the near future. Below is the link to his presentation if you would like to see it for yourself. I am only supplying this link and commenting on this poor presentation because we in the engagement industry face these types of baseless challenges from time to time and it is important that collectively we are able to beat them down with substantive responses.


Brian Galonek


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