Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Motivating without Money - Part II

As I think more about the issue of motivating without money, I keep coming back to one of my favorite business books - Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder. Kidder won the Pulitzer Prize for this fantastic book, in which he traces the efforts of Tom West and his product development team at Data General as they develop a new computer in the early 1980s. West employs a variety of unorthodox management methods to drive his team to high performance. Many of my students describe him as manipulative. Whether they approve of his methods or not, however, all students learn from this story that West has created an exceptionally high level of intrinsic motivation among his staff.

One particular lesson that we learn from the book is that many employees are motivated to work very hard on a particular exciting project if they believe that other "cool" projects will be available to them if they perform well in their current work. In Soul of a New Machine, they call this the "pinball theory of management" - i.e. if you excel on this project, you get to work on another exciting one. In short, many people want the promise of interesting future work that will help them grow and develop, and that will challenge them in a unique way. They do not necessarily need to be motivated by a huge bonus at the end of the project (thogh they would like that too!). They might also be highly motivated by the next opportunity that will come available to them.


Julie & Mike said...

In the book Sway, the authors cite neurological research showing the parts of the brain controlling altruistic and pleasure-seeking impulses do not operate at the same time. The result is people who might have willingly done a task out of a desire to help (assisting a friend in moving) would not do the same task if offered a sum of money (say $10) that didn't seem worth it. Moreover, they find that the pleasure center easily takes over the altruism instinct when given the chance.

I work for the Forest Service, where big bonuses are not a regular occurrance, but this concept still gave me pause in thinking about how I motivate the team I lead.

Michael Roberto said...

Another very good book that is worth reading for those interested in the topic of decision-making, particularly the cognitive dimensions of choice.

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