Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Self Fulfillment & Money

Devout Catholics have always accepted the teaching of the Church that living a principle-driven life is more important and more fulfilling than a money-driven life, and this new book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, reviewed in City Journal discusses that.

An excerpt.

“For as long as big business has been around, management has operated under a simple principle: if you want people to do more of something, pay them more. Hence, bankers earn bonuses for posting big gains. Managers earn bonuses for meeting quarterly earnings targets (and get fired when they don’t). It’s worked reasonably well as the economy has trudged along over the past few decades.

“But lately, people have begun questioning the efficacy of this approach. “In the first ten years of this century—a period of truly staggering underachievement in business, technology, and social progress—we’ve discovered that this sturdy, old operating system doesn’t work nearly as well” as it could, Daniel Pink writes in his new book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Why? The carrot-and-stick approach was created for an economy of assembly lines and mindless number-crunching. But these days, “for growing numbers of people, work is often creative, interesting, and self-directed rather than unrelentingly routine, boring, and other-directed,” says Pink, a former speechwriter for Al Gore whose previous book, A Whole New Mind, so captivated Oprah Winfrey that she gave copies to the entire 2008 graduating class at Stanford, where she delivered the commencement address.

“An accumulating pile of academic research shows that rewards tend to focus the brain more narrowly on the specific task that earns the rewards—thus making it harder to encourage employees to develop creative, innovative solutions. That’s fine if you’re a manager trying to get people to stuff as many envelopes as possible. It’s not so good if you want people to dream up new products or product positioning, create new designs, generate article ideas, or, for that matter, write symphonies.

“So Pink offers a different prescription. The best motivation, he suggests, is intrinsic, that is, when people want to do the work because they find the work itself fulfilling. That doesn’t mean such workers don’t want to be paid well. They do, of course, and they also like free coffee and in-office massages as much as anyone else. But leaders who understand this higher level of motivation compensate people in a way that “takes the issue of money off the table, so they can focus on the work itself.” They pay their employees well for their industry, but equally important, people aren’t pitted against one another through compensation schemes that pay some people way more than others for the same work. These leaders create an environment where people want to do their best. This involves giving people lots of autonomy over their time, their tasks, their techniques, and their teams; providing them an opportunity to work toward mastery of their professional craft; and imbuing their work with a sense of purpose.”