Monday, April 23, 2012

Would you still solve the problem, if there were no rewards to it?

Not sure if this is considered profound material to you but it is illuminating to me.

""When money is used as an external reward for some activity, the subjects lose intrinsic interest for the activity," he wrote.  Rewards can deliver a short-term boost - just as a jolt of caffeine can keep you cranking for a few more hours.  But the effect wears off - and worse, can reduce a person's longer-term motivation to continue the project." - Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive (The surprising truth about what motivates us).

In the history of 'work', management has conditioned its workforce to believe that it is commendable to reward good behaviour and punish the bad ones (no, scrape that.  I meant in the history of 'civilization' - think about it, it is pervasive!  Home, school, any organisation in fact!).  We've been accustomed to calculate our own returns of time/resource/skill investment in the form of money.  Of course, we are all earning a salary and will never lift a single finger for anything less than what we are valued for in the market.  But when we consider the motivation to 'grow', it feels really strange to me that somewhere in the history of 'work', management has somehow resorted to dangling big fat chunky carrots in front of the employee so as to encourage him to perform higher, subsequently growing the company in a sum of collective efforts.

Who's the donkey now?
I mean... really.  Think about it.  This is your own personal growth measured and materialized by the work you produce.  But you need someone, to sit on top of you to entice you to do something that at the end of the day belongs entirely to you and which experience will benefit you forever.  Hmm... peculiar, no?  Keep the aforementioned scenario in your mind.  Keep it there.  Close your eyes if you need to visualize.  Now, tell me if that doesn't feel like we're all androids living in a told and do, win and lose system?  That we've been conditioned and manipulated to perk up and salivate at the sound of a reward and in return, we do whatever we've been 'programmed' to do.  Tell me it is not so?

Unfortunately, we're locked in this strange vicious cycle because the industry is receiving graduates from an education system which bedrock is exactly the 'carrot and stick' rule.  And the worse part is, now we know... cash is like steroids.  You give a booster, you get a boost in high performance.  But when you remove the booster, the grave danger is, the said performance does not return to its 'normal' level.  It swings below the norm and greatly demotivates the individual in pursuing the work even if he had found joy in doing so previously without the reward.  It's not in the conscious mind to even comprehend the situation that we've evolved into (trust me, neither can the management because chances are, they are the alumni of this system).  So no one is aware of this.  No one is aware that our annual increment, bonuses, incentives might actually be doing more harm to our quality of work, performance, interest, and ultimately life.  And we've been questioning to no avail till today, why is society chasing for cash, sacrificing everything that might be deemed meaningful in their life?  And surprisingly especially the mid-upper and not the low income earners?  What is the meaning of life?  Where is the balance of work?  What are we doing to ourselves?  Have you questioned yourself that before?

Every time we take the carrot, we unconsciously erode our precious curiosity and the purity of our interest in the subject.  Every time we take a bribe to do something, we unconsciously place more importance and value in the reward instead of the joy and satisfaction in discovering the solution.  Both ways get you to do the same place - solving the problem, completing the task.  But the question is... which is more important to you?

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