Daniel Pink: Regret can be a rich source of inspiration

If you’re navigating your way through the late stages of the pandemic, re-examining your motivation and purpose, reshaping your work days and weeks for a hybrid world, or contemplating untracked career paths, then Daniel Pink has a book to read. sell you.

Twenty-one years ago, the American author’s first book, Free Agent Nationpicked up the early threads of remote and flexible working in what is now the “gig economy”. To drive located people’s core motivation in the catchy triad of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. When was about how to plan your schedule and career changes for maximum effect. His last, The power of regrettransforms what Pink calls “our most misunderstood emotion” into inspiration for future action.

Organizations assumed that “not everyone deserved autonomy, that not everyone could be trusted,” says Pink, and that only over time would they grant certain independence to certain members of staff. “We just did a two-year experiment with this and – you know what? —[remote working]showed that you can trust people. . . Now, some people will refute that, no doubt, but I think we’ve found that most people won’t. . . You cannot decipher this egg.

Pink is smart enough not to take credit for predicting this particular future of work. Apart from anything else, he fits into that category of writers, alongside Simon Sinek or Malcolm Gladwell, who translate the extensive behavioral and sociological research of academics (duly recognized) into readable and usable ideas.

He admits deciphering old corporate ways was quicker and more complicated than he thought when he went freelance, having served as a speechwriter for then-Vice President Al Gore.

His early books came before the smartphone and social media accelerated the flexible and freelance work trends he had identified. Risk was transferred from organizations to individuals faster than he had anticipated. Now, the rapid post-pandemic cyclical shift toward tighter labor markets is combining with what Pink predicts will be permanent change. Thanks to technology, talented people can “take their means of production with them” instead of relying on employers to provide them. As a result, they “need organizations much less than organizations need talented individuals.”

Rather than businesses and self-employed being “two separate nations at war,” Pink is surprised that they turn out to have “a pretty porous common border.” The 57-year-old has built a lucrative property on this frontier, combining books with motivational speaking for businesses and wider audiences. His 2009 Ted talk, “The Motivation Puzzle”, has been viewed 28 minutes. He says he is increasingly open-minded about the form in which he presents his ideas, in books, podcasts, videos or live presentations.

What drives him to this stage of his career? He still relishes the challenge of doing research and “trying to make sense of it. . . to understand it, decode it, demystify it. . . and then explain it to people in as clear, concise and simple a way as possible so that they can then use a small element of it in their own lives”.

Pink’s target audience is individuals rather than companies or their executives. If a board asked him for his advice on strategy, he says he would “short-circuit the company immediately.” But he points out that organizations are just “collections of individuals, and there is something to be said for individuals determining what their strengths are, what they do well, what interests them, how they can be at their best.”

Pink is as fluid and engaging as her books. But the last few years of global turmoil have sometimes tested his confidence. “Once in a while, I’d go to my office, which is in a garage behind my house in Washington DC, and wonder, what am I doing writing about what I’m writing when there is, in my country and in the world, a fairly clear autocratic threat, and do I want to explain to my grandchildren that, at this moment, I have done nothing?

Even so, he knows how to connect the larger lessons of his micro-analysis of human motivation to geopolitical and environmental cataclysms. What is happening in Ukraine, he says, “is a perfect example of the importance of autonomy. . . Human beings have only two reactions to control. They obey, or they defy. That’s it.” Furthermore, he says governments trying to persuade citizens – or other governments – to tackle climate change could learn from his book. Selling is humanin which he describes and explores sales and persuasion techniques.

While Pink admits he may be trying to justify all that time spent in his garage poring over college, he’s also applying some of the lessons from his latest work.

In The power of regret, Pink argues that an Edith Piaf-style “I don’t regret anything” approach is as damaging as wallowing in regret. But navigating between these two pitfalls, people may view regret as “a photographic negative” of a better life they might still choose to lead. Regret “clarifies what we value and tells us how to do better,” he says, “but it comes with at least mild pain and obvious discomfort.”

In two large surveys, he asked participants to identify their biggest regrets and found remarkable consistency across country, gender, social background and age. These sharp sadnesses dot the book, each a novel in miniature, and Pink has categorized them into four main areas. [see below]. Ten years from now, trivial choices won’t be cause for regret, says Pink. “The ‘Me of 2032’ isn’t going to care what I have for dinner. [But] did I act boldly when I had the chance? The Me of 2032 cares. Did I do well? He will care. Have I achieved and maintained connections and love with other people? »

The four “main regrets”

The Foundation regrets. Failure to be responsible, conscientious or careful.

Audacity regrets. The chances we didn’t take.

Moral regrets. Deceive, cheat, defraud, intimidate.

Login regret. Fractured, unfulfilled or neglected relationships.

As for worrying about not having played its part in resolving today’s major geopolitical and environmental crises, Pink is wary of “anticipating regrets.” Amazon founder Jeff Bezos called it a “regret minimization framework.” Pink says it can be helpful, but also dangerous. “When we anticipate our regrets, we sometimes make risk-free decisions,” because failures are often easier to imagine than unexplored successes. Instead, Pink suggests harnessing regrets within an “optimization framework” and focusing attention on the fundamental decisions that most often lead to lasting regrets.

“We were sold this list of products that you have to be positive all the time. You have to look forward all the time,” says Pink. “It’s nonsense. That’s not how our brains work. Our brain is programmed for regret. On the other hand, you don’t want to spend all your time regretting and brooding over it.

One exception to the consistency of Pink’s conclusions on regret was related to age. The older respondents are, the more likely they are to regret not trying something. Career regrets were a subset of this core regret. “My mum convinced me I would starve if I pursued a career in art, so now I’m stuck behind a desk tangled in executive bureaucracy and life is emptying me,” said a 45-year-old woman. years from Minnesota. entrusted to the investigation.

For every person in his database who said he regretted going into business on his own, Pink says there were 40 or 50 who kicked themselves for not taking action. “The lesson of career regrets,” he says, “is that we should have a slight leaning towards action . . . We should just try things and be less worried about risk.

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