Saturday, April 23, 2011

What science knows business doesn't do

Dan Pink has interesting talk on TED about motivation. His thesis: "if/then" rewards and incentives only work well when the task is rule based and the goal is clear. Perhaps more important, he asserts that evidence shows that such incentives actually detract from performance in cases that demand creative and other right brain congnition.

Is that your experience?

My experience is that you have to be careful what you wish for: if you incent discovery of errors in software code, for instance, then coding tends to be more sloppy and error detection goes up! The 'joke' around my shop: "I'll think I'll go out and code a new car!".

This brings up the second point: look at the counter measures. You would think performance follows the money.... it does, in many cases, but incentives are another form of work rules. Work rules are often the blinders to more creative and optimum performance.

Pink, in his presentation, says the new world order is: personal autonomy, personal mastery, and meaningful purpose. Autonomy is the opportunity for self-direction; mastery is knowing your the best at something; purpose is being part of something that is important to a larger audience.

He cites Encarta vs Wikipedia, and the personal time allowed by Google and others as the demonstration of his thesis.

Whether you agree or not, his presentation is engaging.

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