Motivation and the Nobel Prize

michelleMichelle Griffiths
ITS Project Manager
IT Services
University of Oxford
Member of UCISA-PCMG

A keynote presentation at Educause

In The Cascade Effect – How small wins can transform your organization, Daniel Pink began by discussing motivation from a perspective of science. He said that everyone in the room was an expert in motivation but they might just not realize it! He explained that we also have an explicit knowledge in physics, even though we may not have studied it as our major.

He invited the audience to consider: “When do you reward good and bad behaviour?” and asked us “Does this change behaviour?”  He added that if a larger reward is provided it leads to a poorer performance, according to research, quipping that “this could not happen in the USA but maybe in France!”

Key points

  • Controlling the contingent record: – If, Then, Else
  • Rewards ensure performance, they also get our attention
  • Even for rudimentary cognitive skill, larger reward led to poorer performance
  • Pay people fairly and pay people well

Daniel then cited the following Gallop statistics: three in ten Americans are engaged in their jobs; five in ten are not engaged in their jobs and two in ten are actively disengaged in their jobs.

Key points

  • Engage by being self-driven not by being managed or controlled
  • Traits of a good manager 1. High Standards, 2. Autonomy, 2. Expertise

Outside the day job
Daniel went on to discuss a case study focusing on Graphene which is a material developed by the University of Manchester that is lighter but stronger than steel (it recently won the Nobel prize in Physics). The product was developed not in people’s day jobs but as part of Friday evening experiment time. Staff were advised that do anything they wanted to as long as it wasn’t boring!

He suggested that management teams need to look at putting some time aside. Even if it’s just an hour per week that the staff are away from the ‘phones, they can develop new strategies/improvements in working.

He added: “An email a day keeps the micromanagement away” and advised us to log the progress we make each day as it important to keep our motivation up.

He advised that we schedule weekly 1-2-1 sessions with our staff and vary what we cover, with topics such as:

  • What are you working on?
  • What do you need?
  • What barriers are you facing?
  • What is your long term career goal?

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