Thursday, September 30, 2010

Work and the Profit Motive

 In the video link below Dan Pink illustrates recent studies that change our perception on the profit motive. An increase in reward will improve performance on mechanical related tasks, but in tasks that require rudimentary cognitive skill a higher reward would lead to poorer performance. This study was repeated across cultures and always demonstrated the same result, baffling the traditional economic ideology of the profit motive.
  It was found that money is a good motivator for simple mechanical tasks. However, for improved performance in work that requires cognitive skill and creativity, studies show that people are more motivated by having autonomy, self direction, the ability to master skills, and a sense of purpose. Naturally this required them being paid a decent salary.
    I think that this shows that people in leadership positions should avoid micromanaging the employees who have tasks that require cognitive skills and creativity. I think this would help an organization which has a well defined purpose to be exceptionally successful.


  1. Wow, a very interesting video that showed interesting results, especially since it showed that the research behind the concept had been replicated many times across a variety of cultures. I understand how money can only be a motivator of the mechanical tasks and not a motivator of cognitive performance. I suppose that people who hold jobs that are mechanical, low-paying hourly jobs will tend to work harder for a bigger financial reward, I know that I would right now. On the other hand, people who hold jobs that include autonomy, mastery, and self-direction may typically be more educated and have spent years getting an education or dedicating themselves towards their current task in one way or another, and would still do what they do even if it wasn't a career. For example, a professional musician has spent years training and learning to master their craft, and the motivation to succeed lies within themselves: it is intrinsic and not motivated by money. The same could be said about most professionals with jobs that require high cognitive engagement. I think the tasks that the video says that are not motivated by money (autonomy, self-direction, mastery, and purpose) are intrinsic values that motivate a person before that person has a career or a salary.