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It really matters…According to whom?

by on August 18, 2010

During the TED event, that the Georgetown University students are taking part of, Rory Sutherland and Dan Pink had similar points of views; just different takes on them. Both speakers talked about how separated the government and businesses are removed from what really matters.

Sutherland specifically spoke on how big businesses with big budgets want to solve simple problems with complex, expensive solutions; ignoring the simple, less expensive one that is in our face. The reason, according to Sutherland, for this is because the government creates solutions that they think the people want, rather than what they really want; thus them being removed from what really matters. The government and businesses are missing what really matter to people and are developing their own solutions to it.

Pink focused his speech around rewards. Saying that companies believe that rewards make people work better because they are being incentivized, when the converse is actually true. Pink had a few incentive tests performed by groups of students from MIT, London School of Economics, and a couple of top performing schools, where students were given a task to complete, each with a certain level of reward for each level of task. So there was an easy task with a simple reward, a medium level task with a medium sized incentive, and a harder task with a greater reward. As the student approached the higher level task with the higher reward, the worse the student’s performance. Pink stated that rewards work best for simple solutions where the focus is narrowed.

For the more complex problem, rewards narrow our focus so much that we can’t see the solution, because we are looking in a silo when the solution is outside of that narrow focus. Companies are removed from what really matter because they think that rewards matters most to employees in order to get them to perform better. Pink said that if employers want engagement, then self-direction is better. He suggested that companies take money off the table and be autonomous. He gave examples of Google and an Australian company that believes in this practice – google calls it 20 percent of the time and the Australian company calls it FedEx days. Both companies give their engineers a day to work on an idea that is completely irrelevant to their day-to-day duties. He went on to say that some of the best ideas have come from these autonomous days/ time that they give their employees.

For companies and governments around the world, look at what really matters. Stop thinking you know what works best without talking to the people that you are about to make decisions for; they know best. Keep solutions simple, even if you have big budgets; some of the best solutions are simple. And keep your employees creative and engaged by letting them do tasks via autonomy; your best ideas may come from these days. What do you have to lose?

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From → United Kingdom

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