Tag Archives: Frederick Winslow Taylor

What Drives Extension Work — Really?

Yesterday was one of those days  I was reminded of how fortunate I am to be an Extension professional.

I spent the morning interviewing an elderly northwest Alabama Extension volunteer – a Homemaker Club member and officer — who has spent her entire life either being served by Extension programs or dispensing them as a volunteer.

But wait: Is dispensing programs an adequate description of what she has done?  Doesn’t this phrase minimize, if not demean, what has amounted to an awe-inspiring commitment of time and creative energy?

As she related all the years of passion she poured into her volunteer work, I was reminded of the book I’m currently reading: Dan Pink’s “Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us.”

Pink summarizes what behavioral science has revealed over the past few decades: that the old Frederick Winslow Taylor-style carrot-and-stick incentives really aren’t that incentivizing.   Science has discovered that we’re driven far more by autonomy, mastery and purpose.  Simply put, people want control over their work, to get better at what they do, and, finally, to be part of something bigger than they are.

A thought occurred to me as I reflected on this dear lady’s experiences and the lessons from this book during the long drive home: So much of Extension work really is about these three things – autonomy, mastery and purpose.

This raises a fascinating point — something I fully intend to explore in subsequent posts: Isn’t our outreach work as much about providing experiences as it is administering programs?

Anyway, take the time to watch this excellent overview of Pink’s book and then, by all means, read the book!