I am reading DRIVE, Daniel Pink's usually interesting take on motivation and what makes people tick.
I have come across the key ideas of this book before, primarily through Pink's presentation at the TED, which I found extremely interesting and put on this blog earlier. [See it here]
The key idea, to repeat, is that there is a limit to extrinsic, material, incentives for work. Most managers indeed operate with an extreme, behaviourist assumption about why people work. Because they get paid, simple, is an extraordinarily naive but extraordinarily common answer. And, accordingly, they believe that the promise of higher pay, extra pay, incentives, is what makes people go that extra mile sometimes required by the business. WRONG, says Dan Pink, in this book.
I completely agree. Psychological theories, elegantly presented in the book, show that extrinsic motivators, like money, does work, but only in a limited context, only for activities which are routine (making 40 phone calls a day) and often lead to undesirable behaviour. However, if the activity involves 'rudimentary cognitive' ability, such as making potential customers, on the other end of phone, interested in some product or service, which will require not just the product knowledge but extraordinary sensitivity to his/her feeling, privacy and interest (given the limitations of phone as a medium), extrinsic benefits do not work.
I shall stick to my theory of phone calls [I have been a telephone salesman for a period in my life]. Most companies still hire people to make calls, and call centres are still popular. The assumptions that lie beneath the whole business of telesales is an extraordinarily plain view of how things work: If you make 40 phone calls, and get 10% conversion (10% because that is a nice round number and it is just reasonably low but sounds nice!), you will get 4 sales a day. And, to do so, companies give out incentives, on the number of phone calls when the money is easy, on conversions when it is tight. We, as customers, therefore get these annoying phone calls at odd hours, by mostly rude people who would want to sell something that we do not want, and are mostly left with a bad taste: If we happen to remember the company's name whose sales people pester us all the time, most of us will go great lengths to avoid their products even when we see it at a supermarket.
However, Dan Pink's point is about intrinsic benefits, the work's own reward, which makes people do better in cognitively challenging tasks. He talks about three elements of intrinsic benefits - Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose - which people would derive themselves from meaningful work. Returning to the theory of phone calls, imagine the company has a solution to, well, leaked roofs, and is on a mission to ensure that no one suffers from leaked roof ever again. Here is a brief to its tele-callers: You are the missionaries of the solution, and find at least 4 people in this postcode area and solve their problems. Spend as much time as you want on the phone, and make sure that you are courteous (at least ask the person you are talking to if it is a good time to talk!) and never intrusive: We want to be the friendliest roof repairing company in the world. I would think this approach will work better (on the assumptions that people need roof repairing, the company has a good product which is reasonably priced) and the employees will often end up doing more than 40 calls because they are on a mission.
The problem with material benefits is that it is based on a particular view of how people work and what they expect. I have worked with an entrepreneur, who, though being a generous and charming man, has a very low view of what people really work for, and he went on to create one of the most repressive, ad hoc, dysfunctional workplace I have ever seen. It was not to do with his personality, but his mistaken view of other people and their motivators: While he handed out material benefits, he gathered a crew of self-interested and often dishonest people, who, when the market turned sour and the boss himself needed help, left him and the business in a sorry state and almost beyond repair. What's worse, such experience only reinforced his view that people work only for money and benefits, and he wholeheartedly ignored the possibility that creating a shared purpose or giving people autonomy may turn around the workplace. While extrinsic and intrinsic motivators do not need to be mutually exclusive, people who actually manage sign up to the view of human motivation of one kind or the other (lazy automatons motivated by rewards versus autonomous self-directed individuals wanting to make a difference).
So, finally, here is my view of twenty-first century management, after Dan Pink: Managers job is to create a safe, trusting place to work, which should be, for the individuals involved, a way to find their own self-esteem and fulfilment. The businesses exist, and I keep repeating this, to solve social problems, and only by solving them, they earn a monetary reward: The managers job is to pass on this message to the employees (who s/he should recruit on the basis of the commitment to this view) and enable them to get on with it. I shall use a Steve Jobs quip - 'making a dent in the universe' - that's what work should be for, and the manager's job is to be the coordinator in chief in that extraordinary effort, nothing less, nothing more.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.