Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Can We Be Independent Together?

As he finishes Part One of his book Drive, Daniel Pink offers us to different kinds of behaviors in people: Type X and Type I.  Type X behavior is perfect for a world that is fueled by extrinsic motivation (hence, Type X), a world focused on "the extrinsic rewards to which that activity leads."  Employers looked for this type of behavior in a world where workers performed routine tasks, tasks that were perfect for the "carrot and stick" world of the past.

However, very few of those routine jobs remain in the United States for a variety of reasons which we will not go into here.  People who are Type I perform because of "the freedom, challenge, and purpose of the undertaking itself; any other gains are welcome, but mainly as a bonus."  This is not to say that Type I resist any sort of outside "goodies" or are willing to work for peanuts.  He then presents us with a list of relatively well-known people and asks us to decide whether or not they are Type I or Type X.  He argues that Type I people "almost always outperform Type X's in the long run."  Take a look at the list and decide for yourself:

          Type I                                                Type X
          Warren Buffett                                Jeff Skilling (Enron)
          Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart           Antonio Salieri
          Oprah Winfrey                                Donald Trump
          Bruce Springsteen                          Simon Cowell

You could certainly think about people in your own lives and probably fairly quickly figure out which column they would fit into.  Understand that not all of us fall into one category or the other all the time, but for the most part, it is fairly easy to see the differences between the two groups.

All of the brings us to today's post, focusing on the first element that would encourage Type I people, autonomy.  Pink is careful to point out that autonomy is not the same as independence.  Autonomy offers people a choice, while independence suggests a "go-it-alone, rely-on-nobody individualism."  It is this autonomy that provides people the freedom to do the work that they need to do and thrives in a creative environment that is coming to dominate the United States workplace.

I would like to think that I am creating some type of autonomy in my classes.  The layered curriculum that I have engaged my students with for the past couple of years gives each of them options as to how they learn best.  What I need to do a better job is working to oversee (not manage) the work that students are doing with it.  I hope that giving my students two days at the beginning of each unit to work solely on their layered curriculum will help them understand the autonomy that they have, help them to learn the background material that is so important to their learning, and give them the opportunity to move on to the more creative work that is ahead of them.  It will be an interesting experiment and one that I am looking forward to on a number of levels.

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