An Insider's Perspective: A Glimpse Inside the Classroom of the Motivation of Dan Pink's Drive | Cleveland State University Professional Development Center in Cleveland

An Insider's Perspective: A Glimpse Inside the Classroom of the Motivation of Dan Pink's Drive

An Insider's Perspective of the Motivation of Dan Pink's Drive course at CSU's Professional Development Center
Contributor: Adrian Rutt, CSU Professional Development Center Graduate Assistant

I am a naturally skeptical person, no doubt about it. And whether this is simply due to a natural disposition or whether I simply like to be pleasantly surprised, the outcome is the same: I approach everything, for better or worse, from a skeptical point of view.

And I didn’t alter this when I sat in on a class for observational purposes; I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I had every intention of observing the class in complete honesty—in fact my boss pulled me aside and explicitly told me, I remember the exact moment, to say or write whatever I felt no matter what it is. I’m not so sure employees hear this often, but the office here, and any office that encourages this type of feedback, is set on improvement. And improvement requires honest analysis; not the protecting of precious egos. So who better than a skeptic to do the judging! Needless to say, I was salivating at the opportunity; I love ripping things apart.

The class I sat in on dealt with applying the psychologist Dan Pink’s principles in his book Drive to people’s everyday lives and businesses. I’ve read Pink’s book before, so I wasn’t going in blind. However, my confidence in knowing the content of the book soon subsided when I walked into the middle of a discussion: I only knew who the instructor of the course was, Dennis Kowalski, because he was the only one standing when I walked in. However, he was not the one talking. Coming from someone who believes education is more akin to a conversation rather than a lecture, this was already a cause for admiration and praise. Education is near and dear to my heart, so I am extremely critical, almost too critical, when it comes to education. So you can imagine this would be a perfect storm when paired with my natural skepticism.

The discussion was about autonomy. Since I’ve read the book before I knew what they were talking about, but have always been interested in the application of it. Simply reading Drive , as good as it was, did not leave much room for application in my own life. But here, charts and graphs were being filled out both individually by the participants and the instructor. At every turn, participants were invited to reflect on their own situations. This was, in every sense of the word, application. In less technical terms, it was focused on the individual . But it wasn’t just selfcontained reflection: the small class size allowed them to share their reflections. Napoleon Hill , the king and first of all success writers, talked about something that’s always stuck with me and a concept that immediately, if only subconsciously, popped into my head during my observation time: masterminding.

Masterminding is pretty much the simple and often ignored idea that two heads are better than one. Or five better than three. But masterminding is not about sheer numbers in the room; it is much rarer than merely gathering people for a meeting. It is more a situation in which people can riff off of each other, going back and forth coming up with better questions, better answers, and ultimately a better outlook than before. It is synergy. Normal staff meeting? Hardly. But masterminding was what was happening in the room in which I was only a fly on the wall. I could feel the interest the other participants had in other’s stories and problems even though it didn’t have anything to do with their own story and problems. To me, masterminding is the idea  that we can get so caught up in our own issues and problems that we miss the things right under our nose. And what better way to get our attention to those things under our nose than listening and talking to other people from vastly different walks of life.

This may at first glance seem like it has little to do with the class itself, but it does. A class’s content is much less important than how it is conveyed and explored. We’ve all had that one instructor who could make Paint Drying 101 engaging and interesting, and it is because when content is connected to our lives it becomes more interesting. In the current educational atmosphere that is focused on rote memorization and regurgitation, this class was more than a breath of fresh air. I would have stayed longer had I not had other things to do.

Learn more about the Motivation of Dan Pink's Drive course.