Tag: Daniel Pink

Edward Deci: On the Relationship Between Need Fulfillment and Motivation

Edward Deci’s work on motivation is so often quoted (Dan Pink’s Drive comes to mind) that we decided to go back to the primary text by Deci himself, a book called Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation.

The author is probably best known for his thoughts on the role of autonomy in intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Deci co-developed the Self-Determination Theory with Richard Ryan.

Intrinsic Motivation

Deci and Ryan believed that people naturally develop through a process of engagement and interaction with the world and that said interaction tends to be driven by a “movement toward greater consistency and harmony within.”

The urge to develop an integrated sense of self is thus a central feature of who we are as individuals, and the activity — both physical and mental — that is necessary for this natural developmental trajectory is intrinsically motivated.

This intrinsic motivation is both driven by three innate psychological needs:

  1. The need for autonomy
  2. The need to feel competent
  3. The need for relatedness

In Deci’s view, when the needs are being fulfilled, we will have plenty of motivation. When there are obstacles between us and these needs, it will be demotivating.


In our day to day lives, we will interact with the environment and we will integrate what we feel and learn from these interactions into our sense of self. Think of this like a continuous feedback loop. This environment is littered with societal influences, which can be motivating or demotivating, depending on how they interact with our innate needs and sense of self.

Deci uses an example of a young “artistic athlete.” This individual, who has talent both in an athletic arena and with artistic expression, will ultimately be tugged at times towards being an artist or athlete. To feel authentic to themselves, they will need to find a way to express themselves in both of these realms. If they don’t then they won’t be able to feel that sense of harmony; the self they are reflecting to the world won’t be consistent with the self they feel within.

Ideally, both aspects of this individual need to be nurtured, which Deci calls “autonomy support” — supporting the development of a whole, integrated person.

To characterize our perspective more formally, we view human behavior and experience in terms of the dialectic between the person and the environment – the interaction (and potential opposition) between the active organism striving for unity and autonomy and the social context that can be either nurturing of or antagonistic toward the person’s organismic tendencies. Synthesis occurs when there is enough support in the social context so that the natural, proactive tendencies are able to flourish. But in the absence of adequate supports, not only will intrinsic motivation be undermined, but so too will the development of a more integrated or coherent sense of self.

Deci and Ryan discovered that there are specific social contexts that can undermine this integration.

First, those social contexts that are excessively inconsistent and chaotic. These situations make it next to impossible for people to know what is expected of them: They can’t understand how to behave as there is no consistent feedback, which tends to leave people with little to no motivation (they can’t tell if they are being effective and will feel less a part of the group/situation – no competence, no relatedness).

Second, those social contexts which are extremely controlling. These environments pressure people into certain types of behavior and removes autonomy. The people who comply with the demands tend to become almost robotic at times. Whether the individual is complying with or actively defying the controls, they are not acting autonomously.

Autonomy is the key; without it, Deci believes people will lose their motivation and worse, it will hinder their development.

To develop in a natural and healthy way people need to perceive that they are in a “psychological state of feeling free.” People tend to know when they are being controlled, even if they can’t name it, they feel it. We can’t even trick ourselves, sometimes we think we truly want something but we are actually doing it out of a sense of obligation or fear.

Some people believe that our need for autonomy and our need for others is inherently contradictory. Not so, says Deci:

People have often portrayed the needs for autonomy and relatedness as being implicitly contradictory. You have to give up your autonomy, they say, to be related to others. But that is simply a misportrayal of the human being. Part of the confusion stems from equating autonomy and independence, which are in fact very different concepts.

Independence means to do for yourself, to not rely on others for personal nourishment and emotional support. Autonomy, in contrast, means to act freely, with a sense of volition and choice.

Internalizing & Autonomy

So how do we nurture those around us to help them become the best, authentic version of themselves? Deci and Ryan talk about this in terms of helping people to internalize values/regulations.

They believe there are two distinct types of internalization: Introjection and Integration. Introjection is akin to swallowing a rule whole without thought, whereas integration is more like chewing and digesting a rule. This the optimal form of internalization.

The behavioral output of introjection—swallowing a rule whole—are things like rigid compliance, halfhearted adherence and sometimes even defiance.

Introjected values and regulations can thus result in a variety of outcomes, but none of these is optimal. Clearly the half-heartedness and the rebellion are good for neither party. And while the rigid compliance may please the socializing agents who prompted it, there are serious costs to be borne by the people who comply.

This introjection manifests mostly in a lack of vitality and enthusiasm. It’s hard to be motivated when you are focused on pleasing others instead of being authentic to yourself.

So how can we focus on helping people integrate the regulations and values that will help them to develop to their full potential?

If you put a rooted avocado pit in a pot of earth it will probably grow into a tree, because it is in the nature of avocados to do that. It happens naturally. But not all pits become trees; some shrivel and decompose. They fail to thrive because the climate is inadequate, or the necessary nutrients are lacking. They need sun; they need water; and they need the right temperatures. Those elements do not make trees grow, but they are the nutriments that the developing avocados need, that are necessary in order for the avocados to do what they do naturally.

The metaphor is simple but poignant. Too often we ask the avocado pit to grow into an apple tree. You can try to nudge that avocado into becoming something else but it will never happen, and you will both be miserable.

It all comes down to autonomy support, according to Deci:

It is particularly interesting that autonomy support, which was a crucial contextual nutriment for individuals’ maintaining intrinsic motivation and as a result being more creative, processing information more deeply, and enjoying their activities more, also turns out to be essential for promoting internalization and integration of the motivation for uninteresting, though important, activities.

At one level of analysis, autonomy support means to relate to others – our children, students, and employees – as human beings, as active agents who are worthy of support, rather than as objects to be manipulated for our own gratification. That means taking their perspective and seeing the world from their point of view as we relate to them. Of course, autonomy support may require more work, but then, as socializing agents, that is our responsibility. For us to expect responsibility from others, we must accept our own responsibility as the agents of their socialization.

Autonomy support is not the same as being overly permissive. Having no limits or regulations will create inconsistent and chaotic environments that are no better to generating feelings of autonomy and full development.

Permissiveness is easy, but autonomy support is hard work. It requires being clear, being consistent, setting limits in an understanding, empathic way.

People will continue to make mistakes; that’s human nature (and it’s often a byproduct of trying hard things). Reacting with either heavy-handedness or permissive indifference does not help. Setting the environment for growth and trying to understand the situation from the other person’s point of view is the best course of action.

We all have the need for autonomy, to feel competent, and to relate to others. If you want to learn more about motivation in yourself and others pick up Why We Do What We Do, it’s well worth the read. The other influential book on motivation in recent years is Daniel Pink’s Drive.

Why You’re Not Motivated and 3 Handy Tools to Fix It

It is rare that a book devotes almost half of itself to explaining the concrete implementation of its core ideas. In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink includes a toolkit which he says, “is your guide to taking the ideas in this book and putting them into action.”

The toolkit covers ways to increase your motivation in the context of individuals, organizations, parents, educators, and even exercise.

Pink dedicates a section in the toolkit to Strategies for Awakening Your Motivation. There are a few great tips here that are worth highlighting.

Give Yourself a ‘Flow Test’

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi did more than discover the concept of flow. He also introduced an ingenious new technique to measure it. Csikszentmihalyi and his University of Chicago team equipped participants in their research studies with electronic pagers. Then they paged people at random intervals (approximately eight times a day) for a week, asking them to describe their mental state at that moment. Compared with previous methods, these real-time reports proved far more honest and revealing.

You can use Csikzentimihalyi’s methodological innovation in your own quest for mastery by giving yourself a ‘flow test.’ Set a reminder on your computer or mobile phone to go off at forty random times in a week. Each time your device beeps, write down what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, and whether you’re in ‘flow.’ Record your observations, look at the patterns, and consider the following questions:

  • Which moments produced feelings of ‘flow’? Where were you? What were you working on? Who were you with?
  • Are certain times of day more flow-friendly than others? How could you restructure your day based on your findings?
  • How might you increase the number of optimal experiences and reduce the moments when you felt disengaged or distracted?
  • If you’re having doubts about your job or career, what does this exercise tell you about your true source of intrinsic motivation?”

Just Say No – With a List

Most of us have a to-do list. But legendary management guru Tom Peters also has what he calls “to don’t” list – an inventory of behaviours and practices that sap his energy, divert his focus, and ought to be avoided. Follow his lead and each week craft your own agenda of avoidance. Staying motivated – directing your own life, making progress, and pursuing purpose – isn’t easy. So get rid of the unnecessary obligations, time-wasting distractions, and useless burdens that stand in your way. And the first step in bulldozing these obstacles is to enumerate them. As Peters puts it, “What you decide not to do is probably more important than what you decide to do.”

Stop-doing lists are not new. If you’re wondering what you should stop doing, here are 9 unproductive habits you can stop right now.

Move Five Steps Closer to Mastery

One key to mastery is what Florida State University psychology professor Anders Ericsson calls deliberate practice – a ‘lifelong period of… effort to improve performance in a specific domain.’ Deliberate practice isn’t running a few miles each day or banging on the piano for twenty minutes each morning. It’s much more purposeful, focused, and, yes painful. Follow these steps – over and over again for a decade – and you just might become a master:

  • Remember that deliberate practise has one objective: to improve performance. ‘People who play tennis once a week for years don’t get any better if they do the same thing each time,’ Ericsson has said. ‘Deliberate practise is about changing your performance, setting new goals and straining yourself to reach a bit higher each time.’
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. Repetition matters. Basketball greats don’t shoot ten free throws at the end of team practise; they shoot five hundred.
  • Seek constant, critical feedback. If you don’t know how you’re doing, you won’t know what to improve.
  • Focus ruthlessly on where you need help. While many of us work on what we’re already good at, says Ericsson, ‘those who get better work on their weaknesses.’
  • Prepare for the process to be mentally and physically exhausting. That’s why so few people commit to it, but that’s why it works.

The toolkit also includes a summary of each chapter and even a ‘Drive Discussion Guide;’ a list of twenty questions designed to start a conversation and help you think more deeply about the concepts he has covered. These are some of the fundamentals of active reading and also remind us a bit of the Feynman Technique for learning concepts more deeply.


Still Curious? Follow up with eight ways to say no, Steve Jobs on focus, and the difference between successful people and very successful people.

The Art of Winning An Argument

We spend a lot of our lives trying to convince or persuade others to our point of view. This is one of the reasons that Daniel Pink says that we’re all in sales:

Some of you, no doubt, are selling in the literal sense— convincing existing customers and fresh prospects to buy casualty insurance or consulting services or homemade pies at a farmers’ market. But all of you are likely spending more time than you realize selling in a broader sense—pitching colleagues, persuading funders, cajoling kids. Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.

Persuade or Convince?

But … how are we to change minds? What’s the best way to win an argument? Should we try to convince people, or should we try to persuade them?

In the difference between persuading and convincing, Seth Godin writes:

Marketers don’t convince. Engineers convince. Marketers persuade. Persuasion appeals to the emotions and to fear and to the imagination. Convincing requires a spreadsheet or some other rational device.

It’s much easier to persuade someone if they’re already convinced, if they already know the facts. But it’s impossible to change someone’s mind merely by convincing them of your point.

Sometimes people just disagree. And it’s here where we things start to get interesting.

“What a Man wishes, he will also believe”

— Demosthenes

At first, when people disagree with us we assume they are ignorant … that they lack information. So we try to convince them with information. If we show them that information and they still don’t change their mind, we just think they’re idiots.

In her book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, Kathryn Schulz explains:

… The first thing we usually do when someone disagrees with us is that we just assume they are ignorant. You know, they don’t have access to the same information we do and when we generously share that information with them, they are going to see the light and come on over to our team.

When that doesn’t work. When it turns out those people have all the same information and they still don’t agree with us we move onto a second assumption. They’re idiots …

This approach of trying to convince people that we’re right and they’re wrong is flawed and rarely works. And it’s not because people are idiots, most of them are not.

The Illusion of Explanatory Depth

In many cases, we are overconfident about what we think because we’re familiar with the material. We think we know more than we actually do because it’s available to us. In short, we convince ourselves that we understand how something works when we don’t.

In a study about a decade ago, Yale professors Leonid Rozenblit and Frank Keil asked students to explain how simple things work, like a flushing toilet, a sewing machine, piano keys, a zipper, and a cylinder lock. It turns out, we’re not nearly as smart as we think.

When knowledge is put to the test, our familiarity with things leads to an (unwarranted) overconfidence about how they work.

Discovering that we don’t know as much as we think isn’t as easy as it may seem. Testing our own knowledge sounds like a lot of work. And most of the time others won’t test it either, however, when they do our knowledge doesn’t often match our confidence. And this is the beginning of how we start to show others or even ourselves that our view of the world might need updating.

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

— Richard Feynman

The Era of Fake Knowledge

It’s never been easier to fake what you know: to both yourself and to others.

It’s the conservation of energy. Why put in the effort to learn something if we can get by most of the time without learning it? Why read the entire document when you can just skim the executive summary and get away with it?

Our intellectual laziness, however, comes with a cost. The more we coast the harder it gets to discern the difference between what we think we know and what we actually know. We end up fooling ourselves.

(There are two quick ways you can test your own understanding of something. The first is called the Feynman Technique, and the second is by doing the work required to hold an opinion.)

How to Win an Argument

Recent research shows how the illusion of knowledge might help you convince people they are wrong.

When asked to give reasons for their view, people remain as confident of their positions as they were before giving reasons. This is how we often argue with others. A tennis match of reasons served out and returned from one side to the other. Only no one is listening to the other or even considering they might be wrong. The way to really change minds and soften stances is to ask people to explain why they held views.

(Interestingly this very similar to the technique used by former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss to soften people’s stances. He simply asks them how am I supposed to do that?)

We often can’t explain why we think what we do. And when asked to explain it we realize that we’re not as knowledgeable as we thought. That’s when we revise our confidence level down and become more open to the views of others.

If you want to win an argument, simply ask the person trying to convince you of something to explain how it would work.

Odds are they have not done the work required to hold an opinion. If they can explain why they are correct and how things would work, you’ll learn something. If they can’t you’ll soften their views, perhaps nudging them ever so softly toward your views.

It is worth bearing in mind, however, that someone might do the same to you so make sure you can explain why you think what you do.

Daniel Pink: The New ABCs of Selling

“The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell.
And the funny thing is, you’re a salesman, and you don’t know that.”
— Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman


No matter what you do for a living, you’re in sales. That’s the conclusion Daniel Pink draws in his book To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, a thought-provoking book on “sales” that debunks some of the assumptions behind what we traditionally understand about sales. It’s about how to move people with passion and authenticity.

I’m convinced we’ve gotten it wrong. This is a book about sales. But it is unlike any book about sales you have read (or ignored) before. That’s because selling in all its dimensions—whether pushing Buicks on a car lot or pitching ideas in a meeting—has changed more in the last ten years than it did over the previous hundred. Most of what we think we understand about selling is constructed atop a foundation of assumptions that has crumbled.

It might be an idea, it might be yourself, it might be a product, but you spend more of your time selling than you think.

Some of you, no doubt, are selling in the literal sense— convincing existing customers and fresh prospects to buy casualty insurance or consulting services or homemade pies at a farmers’ market. But all of you are likely spending more time than you realize selling in a broader sense—pitching colleagues, persuading funders, cajoling kids. Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.

Selling doesn’t have a good reputation. These clips from the 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross, based on David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play by the same name, play to what most of us think.

Pink takes one of the old adages of sales ABC — “Always Be Closing” and proposes a new ABC — “Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.”

To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources—not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end. That is also what, say, a good algebra teacher does.

Most selling used to take place in a world where the salesperson knew more than you did. Asymmetrical information created all sorts of problems for consumers. The person you needed to trust was also the one most able to deceive you. The seller knew more about the product than the buyer. This made buyers suspicious. And largely we remain as such. Thanks to the internet, this is no longer the case, but some of the problems still exist.

In a sort of Gresham’s Law, George Akerlof wrote (In The Market for “Lemons”), “Dishonest dealings tend to drive honest dealings out of the market … The presence of people who wish to pawn bad wares as good wares tend to drive out the legitimate business.”

In To Sell is Human, Pink picks up on this.

… prospective purchasers are on notice. When sellers know more than buyers, buyers must beware. It’s no accident that people in the Americas, Europe, and Asia today often know only two words of Latin. In a world of information asymmetry, the guiding principle is caveat emptor—buyer beware.

Imagine a world not of information asymmetry, but of something closer to information parity, where buyers and sellers have roughly equal access to relevant information. What would happen then? Actually, stop imagining that world. You’re living in it.

Buyers today aren’t “fully informed” in the idealized way that many economic models assume. But neither are they the hapless victims of asymmetrical information they once were. … The belief that sales is slimy, slick, and sleazy has less to do with the nature of the activity itself than with the long-reigning but fast-fading conditions in which selling has often taken place.

The balance has shifted. If you’re a buyer and you’ve got just as much information as the seller, along with the means to talk back, you’re no longer the only one who needs to be on notice. In a world of information parity, the new guiding principle is caveat venditor—seller beware.

Many of the common sales-practices of yesteryear don’t adapt well to information parity. In the new world, we need to re-cast the ABCs, Pink argues, to Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.


Attunement “is the ability to bring one’s actions and outlook into harmony with other people and with the context you’re in,” Pink explains. It hinges on three principles.

1. Increase your power by reducing it.

… “power leads individuals to anchor too heavily on their own vantage point, insufficiently adjusting to others’ perspectives.” … The ability to take another’s perspective mattered less when sellers—whether a commissioned salesperson in an electronics store or a physician in her diploma—studded office—held all the cards. Their edge in information … gave them the ability to command through authority and sometimes even to coerce and manipulate. But as that information advantage has withered, so has the power it once conferred. As a result, the ability to move people now depends on power’s inverse: understanding another person’s perspective, getting inside his head and seeing the world through his eyes.

2. Use your head as much as your heart.
… Perspective-taking is a cognitive capacity; it’s mostly about thinking. Empathy is about emotional response; it’s mostly about feeling. Both are crucial. … (but) one is more effective when it comes to moving others. (Perspective-takers).

Pushing too hard is counterproductive, especially in a world of caveat venditor. But feeling too deeply isn’t necessarily the answer either – because you might submerge your own interests. Perspective-taking seems to enable the proper calibration between the two poles, allowing us to adjust and attune ourselves in ways that leave both sides better off.

This second principle of attunement also means recognizing that individuals don’t exist as atomistic units, disconnected from groups, situations, and contexts. And that requires training one’s perspective-taking powers not only on people themselves but also on their relationships and connections to others.

“I do this in every sales situation,” says Dan Shimmerman, founder of Varicent Software, a blazingly successful Toronto company recently acquired by IBM. “For me it’s very important to not just have a good understanding of the key players involved in making a decision, but to understand what each of their biases and preferences are. The mental map gives a complete picture , and allows you to properly allocate time, energy and effort to the right relationships.”

3. Mimic Strategically

Human beings are natural mimickers . Without realizing it, we often do what others do— mirroring back their “accents and speech patterns, facial expressions , overt behaviors, and affective responses.” The person we’re talking to crosses her arms; we do the same. Our colleague takes a sip of water; so do we. When we notice such imitation , we often take a dim view of it. “Monkey see, monkey do,” we sniff. We smirk about those who “ape” others’ behavior or “parrot” back their words as if such actions somehow lie beneath human dignity. But scientists view mimicry differently. To them, this tendency is deeply human, a natural act that serves as a social glue and a sign of trust . Yet they, too, assign it a nonhuman label. They call it the “chameleon effect.”


How to stay afloat amid that ocean of rejection is the second essential quality in moving others. I call this quality “buoyancy.” Hall exemplifies it. Recent social science explains it. And if you understand buoyancy’s three components— which apply before, during, and after any effort to move others— you can use it effectively in your own life.

Like attunement, Pink boils buoyancy down to three components—” which apply before, during, and after any effort to move others.”

1. Before: Interrogative Self-Talk

We human beings talk to ourselves all the time— so much, in fact, that it’s possible to categorize our self-talk. Some of it is positive , as in “I’m strong,” “I’ve got this,” or “I will be the world’s greatest salesman.” Some of it— for a few of us, much of it— is negative. “I’m too weak to finish this race” or “I’ve never been good at math” or “There’s no way I can sell these encyclopedias.” But whether the talk is chest-thumping or ego-bashing, it tends to be declarative. It states what is or what will be.

However, the person whose example you should be following takes a different tack. His name is Bob the Builder. And if you haven’t been around preschool children in the last fifteen years, let me offer a quick dossier. Bob is an overall-clad, hard-hat-sporting, stop-motion-animated guy who runs a construction company. His TV program, which began in England in 1999, now entertains kids in forty-five countries. Bob is always finding himself in sticky situations that seem inevitably to call for traditional sales or non-sales selling. Like all of us, Bob talks to himself. But Bob’s self-talk is neither positive nor declarative. Instead, to move himself and his team, he asks a question: Can we fix it?

… Those who approached a task with Bob-the-Builder-style questioning self-talk outperformed those who employed the more conventional juice-myself-up declarative self-talk.

The reasons are twofold . First, the interrogative, by its very form, elicits answers— and within those answers are strategies for actually carrying out the task. … The second reason is related. Interrogative self-talk, the researchers say, “may inspire thoughts about autonomous or intrinsically motivated reasons to pursue a goal.”

2. During: Positivity Ratios

The broadening effect of positive emotions has important consequences for moving others. Consider both sides of a typical transaction. For the seller, positive emotions can widen her view of her counterpart and his situation. Where negative emotions help us see trees, positive ones reveal forests. And that, in turn, can aid in devising unexpected solutions to the buyer’s problem.

Positivity has one other important dimension when it comes to moving others. “You have to believe in the product you’re selling— and that has to show,” Hall says. Nearly every salesperson I talked to disputed the idea that some people “could sell anything”— whether they believed in it or not. That may have been true in the past, when sellers held a distinct information advantage and buyers had limited choices . But today, these salespeople told me, believing leads to a deeper understanding of your offering, which allows sellers to better match what they have with what others need. And genuine conviction can also produce emotional contagion of its own.

(Negative emotions, however, are valuable.)

(They) offer us feedback on our performance, information on what’s working and what’s not, and hints about how to do better.

3. After: Explanatory Style
In human beings, Seligman observed, learned helplessness was usually a function of people’s “explanatory style”— their habit of explaining negative events to themselves. Think of explanatory style as a form of self-talk that occurs after (rather than before) an experience. People who give up easily, who become helpless even in situations where they actually can do something, explain bad events as permanent, pervasive, and personal. They believe that negative conditions will endure a long time, that the causes are universal rather than specific to the circumstances, and that they’re the ones to blame. So if their boss yells at them, they interpret it as “My boss is always mean” or “All bosses are jerks” or “I’m incompetent at my job” rather than “My boss is having an awful day and I just happened to be in the line of fire when he lost it.” A pessimistic explanatory style— the habit of believing that “it’s my fault, it’s going to last forever, and it’s going to undermine everything I do” —is debilitating, Seligman found. It can diminish performance, trigger depression, and “turn setbacks into disasters.”

In other words, the salespeople with an optimistic explanatory style— who saw rejections as temporary rather than permanent, specific rather than universal, and external rather than personal— sold more insurance and survived in their jobs much longer. What’s more, explanatory style predicted performance with about the same accuracy as the most widely used insurance industry assessment for hiring agents. Optimism, it turns out, isn’t a hollow sentiment. It’s a catalyst that can stir persistence, steady us during challenges, and stoke the confidence that we can influence our surroundings.

Finally, we reach Clarity.

The problem we have saving for retirement, these studies showed, isn’t only our meager ability to weigh present rewards against future ones. It is also the connection— or rather, the disconnection— between our present and future selves. Other research has shown that “thinking about the future self elicits neural activation patterns that are similar to neural activation patterns elicited by thinking about a stranger.” Envisioning ourselves far into the future is extremely difficult— so difficult, in fact, that we often think of that future self as an entirely different person. “To people estranged from their future selves, saving is like a choice between spending money today and giving it to a stranger years from now.”

trying to solve an existing problem— getting people to better balance short-term and long-term rewards— was insufficient because it wasn’t the problem that most needed solving. The researchers’ breakthrough was to identify a new, and previously unknown, problem: that we think of ourselves today and ourselves in the future as different people. Once they identified that alternative problem, they were able to fashion a solution: Show people an image of themselves getting old. And that, in turn, addressed the broader concern—namely, encouraging people to save more money for retirement.

This conceptual shift demonstrates the third quality necessary in moving others today: clarity—the capacity to help others see their situations in fresh and more revealing ways and to identify problems they didn’t realize they had.

Good salespeople, we’ve long been told, are skilled problem solvers. They can assess prospects’ needs, analyze their predicaments, and deliver the optimal solutions. This ability to solve problems still matters. But today, when information is abundant and democratic rather than limited and privileged, it matters relatively less. After all, if I know precisely what my problem is— whether I’m hoping to buy a particular camera or I want to take a three-day beach vacation— I can often find the information I need to make my decision without any assistance. The services of others are far more valuable when I’m mistaken, confused, or completely clueless about my true problem. In those situations, the ability to move others hinges less on problem solving than on problem finding.

One final note on clarity, it’s important to give people clarity on how to think about a problem, but to maximize potential, you should give them clarity on action as well.

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others reminds you that you’re always selling. You just might not be aware of it.