I’ve seen this video from RSA Animate making the rounds at some of my favorite blog sites. It’s from Dan Pink, and it gives an 11-minute, Johnny-on-the-spot animated primer on what motivates us. It’s not actually animation, more like watching someone pretend to animate something, with real cartoon-like pictures being the result. Watching it is quite mesmerizing, and it’s probably more interesting than whatever you’d otherwise be doing for the next few minutes.
The big take home message is that higher-powered incentives don’t necessarily translate into better performance, specifically when “big brain” tasks are involved. Research indicates that people like autonomy in what they are doing and gain non-pecuniary satisfaction from a sense of accomplishment. Open source success stories like Linux and Wikipedia seem to bear this out. On the other hand, there seems to be a fundamental tension between an organization’s objective function and individual autonomy. If they aren’t aligned well, then we wouldn’t expect much innovation that benefits the firm.
So, let’s think about this some more, and meanwhile, enjoy the cool cartoons. Here is the full collection.