Palantir Night Live: Daniel Pink


It is not often that Dan Pink is preaching to the choir, or that Palantir hosts a motivational speaker. However, these rare events aligned in a compelling Palantir Night Live featuring the best-selling author and motivational speaker, who shared his thoughts on motivation in the modern workplace.

The author, who is best known for his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, made the topic of his speech clear from the very beginning: he was not there to inspire the crowd with a heart-wrenching story about personal triumph.

“I am here to talk about motivation from a far nerdier perspective,” he said.

Pink’s insights gave context into why we do what we do at Palantir as he explained what makes people better workers today—a day when value isn’t measured by how many screws are turned and widgets are boxed, but by creativity and innovation instead.

Pink outlined how the traditional carrot and stick management model is a relic technology of the 19th Century, and emphasized the need for a new approach to management. He believes motivation is intrinsic and that three things—autonomy, mastery, and purpose—activate it. In other words, individuals perform better when given just a few constraints and the freedom to determine how to get the job done.

However, Pink added that autonomy is ineffective without purpose—an individual must first, and foremost, be inspired by a mission - the thing he claims, “gets people out of their beds in Gaithersburg and drive to Tysons Corner to do something amazing.”

Something amazing, according to Pink, is “giving the world something it didn’t know it needed.”

During the Q&A session following his talk, audience members probed Pink about the application of his view to government, education, and product development, and what implications it could have for all three. They asked how they could bring his school of thought to their own places of work, while facing deeply entrenched management approaches.

But, Pink was quick to correct them:

“You’re asking the wrong question,” he said. “Instead, you should be asking yourself  ‘Can I do one thing tomorrow to make my world a little better?’… And I hope that you will.”