But I came across this video which discusses “the surprising science of motivation.”
It is a long video (18+ minutes) and Daniel Pink, the presenter, is a little practiced on occasion in his delivery but the information is nice. There were two things in the video which I appreciated.
One I had felt but had never been able to confirm.
The other I already knew but hadn’t written about yet.
1. Motivation Incentives.
Maybe it’s because I have worked with several advertising agency owners who wanted to run their agencies like manufacturing plants, but this issue has been near and dear to my heart for quite awhile. The video talks about “carrot and stick” motivational techniques and crap like that.
He uses some nice simple illustrations and some fact based conclusions for why the typical ways we try to motivate each other fail in business today.
A Daniel Pink Quote:
“There’s a mismatch between what science knows and business does.”
Possibly because most of the organizations I have either consulted for or worked at have been more “idea driven” versus “product output” organizations I have always believed (maybe more a feeling) that financial based reward models sucked. Daniel finally gave me some facts (from studies):
“Once the task called for even rudimentary cognitive skills a larger reward led to poorer performance.”
“As long as task involved only mechanical skills, bonuses worked, i.e., higher pay = better performance.”
That isn’t to say people in a cognitive driven business shouldn’t be fairly compensated; it simply states that rewarding financially to increase productivity is not the most effective path.
So if it isn’t financial rewards, what does help productivity?
2. Constructed Autonomy.
This is all about self direction within a solid construct of vision and company ‘direction.’ This is something I have believed to be an effective characteristic of effective organizations for some time. It is most likely embodied within larger franchise organizations (in some form or fashion) but it is easier to see it in those organizations because they are obviously fragmented and local autonomy works within some “rules” construct.
In addition to talking about motivating employee behavior he also talks about creating an environment for productivity. I wrote about this in Organizational Alignment.
He reminded me when he discusses the idea of autonomy about what I call “constructed autonomy” environments (yup. I do love contradictions).
I used the whole Constructed Autonomy idea in a consulting presentation in early spring (with a source reference) as I discussed organizational alignment and creating the most effective organization.
I apologize but for the life of me I cannot dig up the source for that autonomy business idea but I believe there was a big European based study on organizational behavior that talks about it (if I can find that presentation on some thumb drive I will source it).
My “twist” on the Autonomy thing was to tie it to a tightly constructed organizational vision. To me it’s all about giving employees within the organization lots of freedom within a well defined construct (not a box but rather a guiding star they can always locate).
Maybe not lots of freedom but enough freedom on some key things (whatever they may be that is relevant to that particular organization).
So here’s the deal with Autonomy.
Every time I have used the word “autonomy” to an organizational owner, President, Sr. VP, whatever…their faces pale, hands grip the table a little harder, they may even gasp a little and their voices quiver slightly with fear.
Autonomy means lack of control.
Autonomy means I need to trust my employees.
Autonomy means “so then what do I do”? (sorry, had to throw that last one in).
But autonomy on the ground:
- permits a slight level of localization (if that is relevant to an organization)
- certainly creates a higher level of responsiveness (good for customer satisfaction)
- actually is a good idea/innovation generator (as long as you have a feedback mechanism)
- automatically creates a higher level of energy within an organization
- builds a happier organization because it creates a stronger sense of ownership & responsibility
It takes a strong leader with a clearly articulated vision to make autonomy work within an organization (if you don’t, then autonomy simply fragments an organization by permitting pieces to go flying off in every direction aimlessly).
That’s the “Constructed” portion of it. In my Running a Business Part 2 I described this as one end of the bookends. A clearly articulated vision, mission, okay … what ‘the organization is going to be good at’. And ruthlessly good at.
If that is provided as the “North Star,” then Autonomy always knows what direction to steer toward. And because of that North Star, autonomous groups can wander slightly but have an opportunity to course correct (
which, by the way, is also a good evaluation mechanism for employees).
There you go.
A nice video sparking some clarification on my part.