Just back from Daniel Pink, who was speaking at the Wired breakfast at RIBA this morning about his new book Drive. The key message is that short-term financial rewards, like the banker bonuses, do not produce great performance.
The science on this is clear, he explained. The carrot and stick approach may have worked in 1850s management: As Dan Ariely explains in the March 2010 issue of Wired UK, "Bonuses can boost activity, but not the quality of the work."
One example is the candle experiment. People are given a candle, matches and a box full of tacks and are asked to fix the candle to the wall. The secret is to empty the box, pin it to the wall and put the candle in the box. This became interesting when experimenters offered rewards of 5% for being in the fastest 25% and $20 for being the best.
Those in the incentivised group took, on average, 3.5 minutes longer to solve the problem. The reward actually increased their 'functional fixedness' and got in the way of creative approaches.
Pink explained that studies of companies show that cultures based on high short-term bonuses result in poor long-term performance. Instead companies need to build intrinsic motivation based on:
Autonomy - Search for Mastery - Purpose
Contrast Microsoft's failure with its Encarta encyclopedia (Encarta is now just a dictionary and thesaurus) with the success of Wikipedia. Microsoft paid its contributors well and hired managers to ensure delivery on time. But it is Wikipedia, with its editors contributing for free on topics they are passionate about, that has become the encyclopedia of our age.
This is true of Open Source generally and the success of Linux, Apache and more. Pink emphasised the importance of feedback. Many of the programmers who get involved in these projects probably only get feedback once a year or so in their main jobs, at their annual appraisal. But in the Open Source world they get regular feedback and can build a real reputation purely on the quality of their work.
"Motivation is not something you can do to somebody else", explained Dan. The message is that to get the best results -instead of bonuses - give people control over the work, a sense of purpose and a chance to learn and develop. Could be straight out of the Happy Manifesto.
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