In Daniel Pink's keynote, he led us through 2 Insights, 3 Principles, and 2 Things to Try
Insight #1: Four economists conducted 9 studies in Cambridge, MA and India. They had participants perform escalating cognitive tasks like throw a ball through a hoop and alphabetizing, along with tougher cognitive challenges. The economists segmented the groups and incentivized them based on how well they did (small reward, middle reward, large reward). For mechanical skills (throwing a ball) the higher the pay, the higher the performance. However, once the task required "rudimentary cognitive skill" the larger reward led to poorer performance. This finding was contrary to what scientist hypothesized (ie with a larger the reward, the scientist expected better performance).
Implication: We use "if-then" rewards in business (ie. if you do this, I'll give you that). Yet, social science tells us that if-then rewards are great for simple and short term tasks, but NOT SO GREAT for complex and long-term tasks.
Conclusion: For innovation, if-then rewards aren't the best fit.
Insight #2: Theresa Amabile studied what motivated artists. She collected 460 works of art from various commissioned and non-commissioned artists and invited scholars and art experts to rate the art. What she found was "The commissioned works were rated as significantly less creative than the non-commissioned works, yet they were not rated as different in technical quality."
Implication: Constraint (being commissioned) can sometimes inhibit creativity. In the workplace, there is no such thing as non-commissioned work.
Conclusion: Build in non-commissioned work (like Google's 10% time).
Pay people enough. And, give them Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.
Money is a motivator, but it matters in a peculiar way. Money can't violate the rule of fairness. If two people are doing the same work, they both need to be paid the same amount, otherwise the person getting paid less will be less motivated. For innovative work, people should think about the work, rather than the money. To do so offer autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
Implication: Management is a tool that gets compliance, yet many times what we seek is engagement. The tool for engagement is self-direction. Innovators are better engaged when they can direct time, resources, the process, etc. (see Atlassian Ship It Days for an example of how they deployed autonomy across their organization)
Conclusion: Offer autonomy as an incentive for innovation AND offer non-commissioned work. How? Create a "To-Don't" list by taking out the things that distract us, annoy us, and get in the way.
When it comes to motivation, focusing on the purpose is better than talking about the benefits. The example Dan Pink gave came from call center employees who performed better when they understood the "Why?"
2 Things to Try
- Start small and carve out a genius hour, or an hour of autonomy.
- Have 2 fewer conversations about "how" and two more about "why."