Alternative Directions in Motivation

Our office has a quarterly leadership meeting.  At our most recent one, they showed a TED-sponsored video by Dan Pink, a former Al Gore speechwriter and currently a career analyst.  He was making the point that in today’s rapidly evolving environment that there is a need for new directions in the science of motivation.  He emphasized that money alone is not good motivator.  That having a less-regulated work environment with:

  • AUTONOMY
  • MASTERY
  • PURPOSE

is more critical than cash or threats (carrot or stick).  Dan Pink, in the short video I watched, concentrated on the first item: AUTOMONY.

He used the acronym, ROWE which stands for “results only work environment.”  This is a concept I support wholeheartedly.  Hire good people and turn them loose.  Don’t continually harass them over things that don’t really matter.  Provide a creative work environment.

According to a supervisory training class that I took 8 months ago, the problem with this strategy is . . . it is difficult to fire people when work standards are not clearly defined.  And it is easier to define the trivial stuff than it is the creative stuff.  In other words, it is easier to fire someone for continually being late to work than it is for less-than-inspired work or just plain incompetence.  Largely because the former is easier to document.  But which is more important, the employee that is a creative producer, or the one who is on time to work every day?

The counterpoint to regimented workplace is . . . if an individual works in a more unregulated and supportive environment (with more autonomy), his creativity may skyrocket.  Companies like Google, allow employees to spend 20 percent of their time on “personal” creative projects and this has lead to several important innovations.  While I’m generally underwhelmed by “management-related” videos, this one, by Dan Pink, I enjoyed and recommend.

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