General FAQs

What is the social science behind MDNA?

According to the summary of the bestselling book Drive: The Surprising Truth of What Motivates Us: 

Most of us believe that the best way to motivate ourselves and others is with external rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake, Daniel H. Pink says in his provocative and persuasive new book. The secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He demonstrates that while carrots and sticks worked successfully in the twentieth century, that’s precisely the wrong way to motivate people for today’s challenges.

In Drive, Daniel Pink introduces readers to the social science of Self-Determination Theory. Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is a theory of human motivation. According to a network of researchers around the world, SDT focuses on how to support our natural and intrinsic tendencies to operate in healthy and effective ways. SDT helps us understand how extrinsic forces interact with an individual’s intrinsic motivations and inherent needs to be mobilized and mobilize others.

SDT is important to MDNA because it is meta-theory. According to SDT researchers:

SDT represents a broad framework for the study of human motivation and personality. SDT articulates a meta-theory for framing motivational studies, a formal theory that defines intrinsic and varied extrinsic sources of motivation, and a description of the respective roles of intrinsic and types of extrinsic motivation in cognitive and social development and in individual differences. Perhaps more importantly SDT propositions also focus on how social and cultural factors facilitate or undermine people’s sense of volition and initiative, in addition to their well-being and the quality of their performance.  Conditions supporting the individual’s experience of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are argued to foster the most volitional and high quality forms of motivation and engagement for activities, including enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity. In addition SDT proposes that the degree to which any of these three psychological needs is unsupported or thwarted within a social context will have a robust detrimental impact on wellness in that setting.

Using the meta-theory of SDT, we developed MDNA to focus on individual and cultural patterns around the three psychological universal needs identified by SDT: autonomy, competence and relatedness. (In the MDNA framework, we refer to these as passions, potential and purpose respectively.)

  • Autonomy (Passions) is our need to perceive that we have choices, that what we are doing is of our own volition, and that we are "self-actualizing" as the originators of our own actions.
  • Competence (Potential) is our need to feel effective and that our actions have a direct impact on our desires results, demonstrating skill over time, and feeling a sense of growth and flourishing.
  • Relatedness (Purpose) is our need to care about and be cared about by others, to feel connected to others while feeling we are contributing to something greater than themselves.