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Daniel Pink’s Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose Framework


The issue of motivation is key in understanding employee performance. It can be argued that when employees are not motivated, they will not perform well, and in turn, this will negatively affect the company’s bottom line. Self-motivation has been suggested as one of the best ways of not only achieving success at work but also maintaining one’s motivation. Indeed, the act of getting motivated is different from the one of sustaining the motivation. For example, a person can be motivated by a rise in salary but after a few months, the motivation dwindles due to the fact that the excitement of the reward has also dwindled. On the other hand, it is debatable that intrinsic motivation that stems from self-motivation is more rewarding. This essay looks at the concept of intrinsic motivation as purposed by Daniel Pink’s Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose framework.

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Does Daniel Pink’s Theory of Success Work When One of the Elements (Autonomy, Mastery, and/or Purpose) is Taken Out?

It is arguable that Daniel Pink’s theory of success can still work if one of the elements is taken out. As mentioned, the three elements are autonomy, mastery and purpose. Zielicz notes that each of these elements has its own percentage/contribution to an individual’s intrinsic motivation (183). The premise suggests that although the three factors are important, some weigh heavier than others based on the individual in question.

Therefore, where one person relies heavily on mastery for motivation, his or her purpose might be significantly low. It is important to note that Pink does not argue that one has to have the same interests in the three elements in order to be successful. In fact, a person who prefers autonomy (of the three options) will still be successful in what they do. This will be realized if the supervisors also create an environment that sustains this type of personality.

An example can be given to explain the argument better. Employee A is motivated by the purpose element. This means that as long as what she or he is doing is connected to the larger picture, then he or she will be motivated and successful (Lubienski & Brewer 71). There are careers and even people who work well using this type of motivation. It is possible to find that such people do not mind issues of autonomy as long as what they do is both directly or indirectly linked to the organization’s larger picture. The type of element that causes success is, therefore, in this case, not tied to the other two elements. However, it is critical to note that for success to occur, at least two of Pink’s factors have to be considered. For example, purpose and mastery can work well together while autonomy and mastery can also be linked for a better success rate.

There are numerous ways in which the three elements can be combined to boost success. For example, one can argue that giving up control is critical in all three elements. The term used refers to giving employees more leeway to do things their way. This invokes creativity, which is linked to autonomy; encourages accountability and responsibility, which are linked to mastery; and finally, supports drive and passion, which are further linked to purpose. Further, reverting communication from commanding to suggesting can help employees use all three elements to succeed and remain motivated.

It is imperative to note that becoming motivated and remaining so are also two different things. One can argue that whereas the individual elements encourage people to become motivated, they cannot sustain the same. Debatably, a strategic combination of all three factors can be used to ensure one remains motivated and productive. For instance, in the case of someone who finds motivation through autonomy, he or she can continue to be successful in what they do if that autonomy is also linked to mastery. This is due to the fact that the autonomy will increase the individual’s skill in the practice he or she is undertaking.

Therefore, to some extent, the affected will be better at what they do. In turn, this mastery can be used to instill a sense of purpose, which will push the motivation a notch higher. Therefore, one can conclude that whereas the theory by Pink will still work if one of the elements (autonomy, mastery, and/or purpose) is removed, it might not be as effective as when all three factors are used together.

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To What Degree Are Children Who May Be Young, Inexperienced, And Unmotivated Influenced by Autonomy or Other Intrinsic Motivations? Can Autonomy Lead Them to The Right Choices? How Much Autonomy Should They Have Over Their Education? At Home?

Young, inexperienced and unmotivated children can be influenced significantly by autonomy and other intrinsic motivations. It is prudent to note that children often lose interest in items quickly. This also means that due to their short attention span, their learning span is also equally limited. Autonomy allows children to do things alone and in their own way. Zielicz notes that children should not start projects alone (physically) (185). However, an adult should always be present to help when needed. This ensures the safety of the child while at the same time also improving their motivation. An adult should also help the child develop the right tasks. This ensures that the child’s skills are enough to complete the task given, in turn, boosting their motivation. It is critical not to give the children hard tasks as the more complex they are for the child’s age, the less likely the child will be interested in the same. This will automatically affect motivation.

There are other intrinsic motivations that can be used to motivate children. For example, self-evaluation opportunities will enhance the autonomy approach taken while at the same time also maintain the child’s interests and motivation. As stated earlier, one has to consider both gaining motivation and sustaining it. Self-evaluation will only work if the targets that were set initially were also realistic. As stated, setting realistic goals will ensure the child can accomplish them. However, it is advisable that these goals should not be simple as for motivation to occur, the child has to be challenged. Autonomy also helps with inexperience as the child will be experimenting at his or her own pace. The suggestion to have an adult present (without interfering) allows for progressive experimenting.

It is arguable that autonomy can lead the inexperienced, young and unmotivated children to the right choices. However, as mentioned previously, caution has to be practiced for the same to occur. There has to be some form of guidance that should be provided to steer the children to the right choices. Due to the experimental nature of autonomy, it is critical that adults, either parents or teachers, monitor the work the children are doing in order to ensure they are progressive. Further, it is critical that the child understands the process of achieving success. For instance, success and motivation do not start at the apex of the work being done, but at the planning stage. Therefore, the child should be involved in identifying the right tasks he or she will do. This will also allow the parent or teacher to let go of some of the controls as the child gets more comfortable with the autonomy approach.

Using the given discussions, one can, thus, argue that children should not have 100% autonomy over their education and even home choices. One can argue that the experiences, knowledge and skills that both parents and teachers have are crucial to both the physical and mental development of a child. Therefore, although autonomy is encouraged, essential control still has to be incorporated to ensure the progressive growth of the child. This is also applicable to household choices that the child has to make.

Examine the Role of Purpose in Achieving Success

There is no direct relationship between purpose and achieving success. Indeed, there are numerous people who have to find their purpose in order to be motivated. However, there are also instances where people do not need a purpose to be successful in their work. It is important to note that purpose can be perceived as either goals or the big picture. Intrinsic purpose refers to the latter, therefore, it is arguable that it is possible to be successful without intrinsic purpose. An individual who leans more on the other two elements of intrinsic motivation does not need to fully focus on the element of purpose. However, it should be noted that people who do not ideally look at the big picture to be motivated can and should have goals. These goals can be used to measure milestones and success.

To understand this argument better, it is important to note that a sense of purpose develops over time. An example of a new employee can be used to explain further. One can debate that new employees are often keen to please their supervisors and show that they are qualified for the job they just started. At this stage, they do not understand the organization’s big picture, which should ideally be part of the mission and vision statements. Employees who have been in the organization longer might be keener on the company’s mission and vision. This does not, however, mean that the new employees will not be successful. It is arguable that due to the gradual nature of achieving the purpose (especially in the workplace), there is a point in time when a significant number of individuals look for the purpose more than anything in their lives.

Consider Pink’s Theories from a Social Perspective. How Does Society Play into Autonomy, Mastery, and/or Purpose?

From a social perspective, one can argue that the three main components of Pink’s theory – autonomy, mastery, and purpose, are not suitable for the workplace. In order to fully understand this argument, one has to admit that a significant number of workplaces are traditional in nature. The debate on different types of leadership styles that best benefit employees has only recently been started. Traditionally, junior employees are supervised and micromanaged. Zielicz explains that companies that still micromanage their employees are often not effective in fulfilling their mandates and goals (190). There has been a push for organizations to change the way they interact with their employees. The suggestion made will ensure that society plays a bigger role in autonomy, mastery, and/or purpose.

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It can be argued, for instance, that tying purpose to a way of life will ensure that an employee’s intrinsic purpose will be “to be useful and progressive in anything I do” as opposed to any monetary purpose. The current push for different yet better work environments will also ensure that society plays a bigger role in the issue of intrinsic motivation. It is important to note that traditionally, many societies (workplaces) do not consider motivation a major issue, especially one that has to be solved by the company. This mindset has to change in order for the true and full benefits of intrinsic motivation to be realized.


In conclusion, one can agree that intrinsic rewards are better than external ones. This is due to the fact that the former offers better gratification compared to the latter. The fact that the working place is also changing ensures that more managers are taking advantage of self-motivation to raise their employees’ performances. The framework as presented by Daniel Pink is ideal for understanding the things that drive employees. This makes it easier for management to take proper care of their employees and also creates a suitable environment for the staff to grow.


Lubienski, A. Christopher and Brewer, T. Jameson. Learning to Teach in an Era of Privatization: Global Trends in Teacher Preparation. Teachers College Press, 2019.

Zielicz, Anna. “Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose – a Basis for Good Practice in Organizing University Courses.” Journal of Modern Science, vol. 1, no. 1, 2017, pp. 183-208.

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