In Free Agent Nation, Daniel Pink suggests watching two films to get an idea of how the world of work has changed since the middle of the twentieth century.
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956) is about a public relations executive, the Organization Man of the 1950s.
Jerry Maguire (1996) is the story of a West Coast sports agent who navigates today's freewheeling entrepreneurial culture.
But what struck me on the snowy afternoon that I watched these movies back to back was not so much how the culture of work has changed, but how much it has remained the same.
With his usual talent for organization and clarity, Daniel Pink, the author of Drive, offers the following tweet-sized summary of the book: "Carrot and stick are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose."
In these challenging economic times, it may seem strange to suggest that people are not primarily motivated by external rewards, but Pink makes a compelling case for the fact that internal motivation is what is really driving us, once basic living needs are met.
If you don't believe this can produce something of real value, he is saying, just consider the many open-source Internet initiatives, e.g., OpenOffice.org, Mozilla Firefox, Wordpress, Linux, etc., with new ones cropping up almost every day, run by volunteers who have chosen to put their energy where their authenticity lies.
When tea became trendy, I gave in and, with a sigh, supplemented my grandmother's depression glass dishes with a few pieces from the new array of tea service paraphernalia available in gift shops.
When yoga started to become an "in thing," promoted in slick videos and shops such as the one near my home called "Om Depot" (I'm not kidding), I winced, but continued to do the Salutation to the Sun in my living room every morning.
But I draw the line at cupcakes.
A few weeks ago a client asked me if I'd ever watched “The Apprentice”.
I hadn't. (For those of you in the same boat, it’s a TV “reality” show where contestants compete to keep from getting fired; the winner is hired by Donald Trump at the end of the season.)
My client told me that, given the professional development work I do, I would probably find the show enlightening.
I did—so enlightening that I had to write this column in order to come to peace with my reaction to it.