TED – Misconceptions about Rewards Driven Motivation

Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, and misconceptions surrounding rewards driven motivation. Starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. See the video below, which summarizes years of ignored research, and underlines that higher rewards does not always yield higher performances. Specially, for performing 21st century creative jobs (Say, electronics circuit designs, algorithm designs, etc.), an environment free from reward-punishment paradigm is actually more fruitful.

To make his point, Daniel gives numerous examples, one of which is Encarta Vs. Wikipedia. Microsoft started organized, incentivized efforts to build an Encarta encyclopedia. However, today we find that Wikipedia is way ahead, more comprehensive, and more updated than the Encarta. What incentives Wikipedia gives to its users? Nothing. It says, write articles for fun, and on any subject you like! No restrictions, no deadlines, and it has made wonders. Another is well known example : Google. Many of their products have came up as a result of work done by their employees in “20%” time. In this, employee is free to work on any thing of his choice.

Notable point:

  • As long as the task involved only mechanical skill, rewards driven motivation worked as expected: the higher the pay, better the performance. But once the task called even for, ‘even rudimentary cognitive skill’, a larger reward ‘led to poorer performance’. – Research paper (see the video for more info)

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