This post is also crossposted on Medium's Age of Awareness publication.
Over the last couple days, I’ve been reading Don Wettrick’s Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level. In addition to considering how all this is going to change my classroom, I’ve been thinking how it can impact teacher professional development.
At the beginning of Chapter 2, Don tells you to put down the book and check out Daniel Pink’s TED Talk, The Puzzle of Motivation. In it, Pink explains how “there is a disconnect between what science knows and what business does.” Long story short, business still relies on a combination of carrots and sticks to motivate workers. As it turns out, this actually produces the worst results when it comes to complex, 21st century tasks. These management techniques come to us from a much earlier era, the age of the assembly line. The better approach, Pink argues, is to create conditions that allow employees to experience autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
I’m going to take a page out of Don’s playbook and ask you to watch Pink’s video right now as well.
Daniel Pink’s talk reminded me of another, much older idea I’d encountered, that of Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y from his book The Human Side of Enterprise (1960). Both theories represent beliefs of managers about their employees, beliefs that tend to become self-fulfilling prophesies.
Theory X presumes that employees are lazy, unmotivated, and resistant to change. Theory Y supposes the opposite: employees are passionate, motivated, and desire to make a difference. The only reason they may not seem that way is that the assumptions of a Theory X work environment are so pervasive and systemic that workers eventually behave accordingly.