If I could afford to pay you to read this blog, would that be a good decision? Would it motivate you to consume the daily fodder here, or would you simply become addicted to the payment and demand increasing rewards in exchange for continued patronage? Or would you lose interest in reading the Capitalist regardless of the continued payments, stripped of your intrinsic drive to improve your knowledge by presence of cash exchange?
If you haven't figured it out by know, I'm reading Dan Pink's "Drive", which basically tries to debunk everything we know about rewards and motivation and makes a strong case that the secret to high performance and satisfaction - at work, at school and at home - is the deep human need to direct our own lives, learn and create new things and do better for ourselves and the world.
It's a pretty radical book that basically says if you're trying to pay someone to motivate them to do more, you're setting yourself up for failure, especially in a knowledge economy where creativity is required to perform at a high level. My CEO gave me the book and I'm only about 70 pages through it right now. Still, I remembered that a rewards and motivation guy I respect - Paul Hebert of I2I and Fistful of Talent, reviewed the book during Christmas of 2009 and had this to say:
"Yesterday I gave you the short answer on Dan Pink’s new book “Drive.” Good book, but not the be-all and end-all of books on motivation. That is an important sentence.
Do not use this book as your bible for employee motivation. While the book’s main point is well made – people perform better when they have control over their work, see progress in mastering it and contribute to a higher purpose – that alone can’t drive business success. I believe the book is designed to convince your that almost all of the work done today – or to be done tomorrow – is better influenced through the autonomy, mastery and purpose model (AMP) and that most, if not all, incentive-based performance programs should go the way of the Dodo.
Don’t fall for it. think this is just ONE piece in a puzzle, one color in a rainbow, one thread in a tapestry – of all the ways to influence behavior in your organization. The concepts and ideas in Drive do apply - in some segments of your employee base, but not all. While the concept of motivation through allowing employees to have autonomy, mastery and purpose (AMP) is nice, and could engage some people, it is not, IMHO, a workable business plan for motivation in an organization."
I dig the ideas in Pink's book, but I have to agree with Paul - don't drink the Kool-Aid that "Drive" is a one-stop shop for all things related to rewards and motivation. Need proof that the rewards/motivation/performance space is complex? Check out the current issue of Time, which details an extensive Harvard study that attempts to answer the age-old motivation question whether we should bribe kids to work hard in school. Here are the results of the extended study:
"The results began to trickle into the lab last summer. In New York City, the $1.5 million paid to 8,320 kids for good test scores did not work — at least not in any way that's easy to measure. In Chicago, under a different model, the kids who earned money for grades attended class more often and got better grades, two major accomplishments. Those students did not, however, do better on their standardized tests at the end of the year.
In Washington, the kids did better on standardized reading tests. Getting paid on a routine basis for a series of small accomplishments, including attendance and behavior, seemed to lead to more learning for those kids. And in Dallas, the experiment produced the most dramatic gains of all. Paying second-graders to read books significantly boosted their reading-comprehension scores on standardized tests at the end of the year — and those kids seemed to continue to do better the next year, even after the rewards stopped."
Translation: when it comes to paying people to try harder and perform better - IT DEPENDS. I love the vibe of Pink's book, but I'm way too jaded by the workplace to think that there's one absolute answer when it comes to the impact of rewards on motivation and performance.
And by the way, I'm not paying you to read my blog. I'm choosing to side with the theories of Pink on that one. Paying you would only rob you of your intrinsic motivation. HA!!
Leave you with this great story from the Time article, which you should read in it's entirety:
"In junior high school, one of my classmates had a TV addiction — back before it was normal. This boy — we'll call him Ethan — was an encyclopedia of vacuous content, from The A-Team to Who's the Boss?
Then one day Ethan's mother made him a bold offer. If he could go a full month without watching any TV, she would give him $200. None of us thought he could do it. But Ethan quit TV, just like that. His friends offered to let him cheat at their houses on Friday nights (Miami Vice nights!). Ethan said no."
One month later, Ethan's mom paid him $200. He went out and bought a TV, the biggest one he could find.
Word. Motivation is a complex thing.