I’m sure we’re all well versed with the expression carrots and sticks – carrots being the metaphor for ‘reward’ and sticks as ‘punishment’; to induce a desired change in the behaviour of our employees; children, or whosoever are in question.
The underlying essence with that expression here and which has been believed and practiced for so long is - incentives (carrots) and penalties (sticks) do work in motivating people to bring about a desired outcome, or deter from an undesirable one…
But, do they really?
Our Influencer for this BLOGSpeak Post, Dan Pink professes via his Ted Talk The Puzzle Of Motivation, that such external motivators or persuaders do not induce the desired outcomes. He claims that there is a fundamental ‘mismatch’ between science and business – where science knows that incentives don’t work but the business world is yet to catch up on that reality!
Dan, whose Ted Talk was inspired by his book Drive; has also authored several other best sellers like Free Agent Nation, A Whole New Mind, The Adventures Of Johnny Bunko and To Sell Is Human. And for 2018, Dan has already lined up a new book for his readers with the name, WHEN: The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing, where he probes into the idea that ‘timing’ or the popular ‘art’ of mastering ‘when to make the right decisions in our lives’; is actually a science.
A former speechwriter for Al Gore, Dan Pink has captured the hearts of millions with his innovative and ground-breaking works on Business, Management, Marketing and Behavioural Science. Today we'd like to float the author’s idea on ‘Motivation’ in the hope to inspire your own thoughts and your outlook towards work and life:
Dan says that though we all don’t mind getting that little extra cash (incentive); we shouldn’t fool ourselves that it’ll make us work any harder. To illustrate this point he points to a popular psychology experiment called, ‘The Candle Problem’.
The goal is to come up with a solution that attaches the candle to the wall so the wax doesn’t drip onto the table.
Most people do come up with clever ideas, but none succeeded in putting up the candle against the wall. The correct solution however comes after toiling for over 10 minutes, which involves emptying the box of thumb tacks and pinning the box to the wall, as it works like a platform to hold the candle (as below):
Now that we know the solution, Dan explains further how another scientist named Sam Glucksberg used the same candle experiment to show the power of incentives.
He took two groups; to one group he told them that he’d time them to see how long does it take on an average to solve the problem. And to the other group he offered a reward for fastest times. When both of the groups solved the problem, the results were quite astonishing – it took the incentivised group three and a half minutes longer to solve the problem!
Dan’s point here is, most of the problems we face in our businesses in the 21st century; are similar to this ‘candle problem’. It's not a linear process of problem solving, but requires thinking beyond the obvious, needs sharpened thinking and accelerated creativity.
The incentives given on such tasks actually dulled thinking and inhibited creativity; and as Dan points out this experiment is not an aberration, but has been replicated over and over again for the last 40 years!
Which brings us to the point that, such contingent extrinsic motivators may work in some circumstances, but for most of the tasks they don’t work. The solution Dan says lies in the approach built around ‘Intrinsic Motivation’, which he sums up within three elements of AUTONOMY, MASTERY & PURPOSE.
Autonomy: The urge to direct our own lives.
Mastery: The desire to get better and better at something that matters.
Purpose: The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
On citing examples for autonomy and self-direction, Dan points to the radical management approaches of the Australian software company, Atlassian, where the employees are given the autonomy a few times a year. They're asked to do whatever they feel like for the next 24 hours, so long as it's not their regular job…
It seems, it's in these times that most of the brilliant works are created; the engineers come up with brilliant patches of codes; or useful hacks and software fixes. The company has now taken this to a new level, saying ‘20% of Time’ – meaning employees can spend 20% of their time working on any project they like; which is also a common practice at Google; and this autonomy has served Google well as half of its popular products like Gmail, Orkut and Google news have been birthed out of this 20% time.
As Dan puts it, the traditional notion of management with the ‘carrot and stick’ is great if you want compliance, but if you want engagement and excellence, intrinsic motivators and self-direction works way better in today’s world.
We hope today’s Influencer Dan Pink and his ideas on motivation have given you the impulse to think about your own motivators at work. If you’d like to see more of Dan Pink’s work you can also visit his portal Danpink.com or catch him on his Pinkcast.
If you'd like further assistance or would like to discuss anything covered today, we'd love to hear from you.
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