On Motivation

It’s what we’ve known all along: a carrot only works on donkeys. Why it’s important not to treat employees like idiots.

The Daily Maverick recently picked up on Daniel Pink’s best-selling book, Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us, which looks at how the traditional carrot-and-stick motivational system that most leaders use to try and get the best performance out of their employees simply doesn’t work.

Pink draws on years of behavioural research to show that offering someone a big wad of cash just doesn’t buy you the same level of blind commitment and devotion that it used to. While money was indeed a motivator in the 20th century when most work was quite mechanical, today’s worker, who is often employed specifically to think about complex problems and be creative, doesn’t respond to a financial carrot like you would expect. Instead us modern worker bees are driven by autonomy, mastery and purpose.

In fact, Pink’s research shows that when it comes to tasks that involve lots of thinking, having a huge incentive generally makes people perform even worse.Who would have thought? Well it is quite obvious I think, because you need the freedom to let your mind roam, to explore various trains of thought to find solutions. And if you’re feeling pressured to narrow your focus to one very specific end result, chances are you’re going to miss a lot of great ideas and totally choke.

Creativity and innovation don’t work well when pushed. It’s a bit like being forced to tell a joke. Somehow, every funny anecdote you’ve ever known vanishes and you’re left with:

“What did the fish say when it swam into a wall?”

It’s not the first time that I’ve heard about Pink’s work, and while I admit that I haven’t read the book (but do intend to), it is something that I have thought about often. In his 2009 TED talk, what he says over and over is that  “There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does“. Even though studies from various institutes across the world keep coming up with the same results, businesses are still clinging to an outmoded model.

Coming across this again, it got me thinking about what makes me want to do things. Pink’s work specifically relates to the work environment where he argues that autonomy, mastery and purpose are the key drivers. And it makes sense. I want to feel like I’m in control of what I’m doing. I like to figure out the best way to do something, come up with a solution and feel like I’m contributing to something worthwhile. When my motivation drops, I am pretty sure that most times I could trace the cause to feelings like, “What’s the point of all my hard work?” or “Why bother if nobody takes my input seriously?”

Probably the worst thing in an office environment is sitting in the office when there is nothing that needs doing, just because it would “look bad” if you left early. Really? What is the point of forcing people to sit in an office for 8 hours a day if they’re not actually doing anything? I am a firm believer that as long as the work that needs to get done is getting done well, then I couldn’t care less what people are doing around me. But even saying that, I am also acutely aware of what other people think, and fear that people would think I’m lazy and avoiding work because I’m not in the office – which shows how entrenched these old ways of thinking are.

Pink mentions a number of companies who are doing things differently. Google, a company that is founded on innovative thinking, employs a 20 Per Cent Time policy where engineers can spend 20% of their time working on whatever they want.

Pink also refers to an Australian software company, Atlassian, who a few times a year, tells their employees that they have 24 hours to go off and think about anything, as long as it’s not related to their normal job. After these ‘Fedex’ days, they present their ideas to the whole company in a hands on event. And they get great results and phenomenal ideas.

It seems absurd that we expect people working with us (or under us in the terrible hierarchy that still exists) to be proactive, creative, innovative, excited (and all those other overused terms like “passionate”) when most offices still run a lot like schools with role call, a homework book and a crochety old spinster keeping a beady eye on everything, ready to give you a talking to when you step out of line. It also seems there is a fear that if you give people free reign, things will spiral out of control. If you tell people they can come to work whenever they like, somehow they will all bugger off and never come back. But you know what? I wouldn’t do that, so why would anyone else?

Sure there are days when you don’t feel your greatest and aren’t fully productive – but at the end of the day, the work always gets done. And if you’ve managed to get yourself through school, university, pay your rent, feed yourself and make sure you shower often enough that you don’t smell like a homeless man’s underpants, hold down a job, pay your medical bills and raise children – why wouldn’t we be able to manage our work responsibilities in the way that works best for us?

People underestimate the power of being given trust and respect. Trust in the fact that you are capable, competent and not a bloody idiot. And it is so simple to implement. You could do it tomorrow. It’s about everyone knowing and understanding what they need to do and when they need to do it by. Simple.

And you know what? If someone who is given the opportunity to take control of their work environment does go off the rails, you probably wouldn’t want them in your business anyway.

A Wonderful Workshop

Last week the very first Veggie Buntch Workshop took place at Wild Organic Foods, in Woodstock. It was an amazingly organic process putting the workshop together – and the support and advice from everyone involved was fantastic. I thought I would share some of the experience with you.

How did it all come about?

Well, I have to thank Charmain Lines from Natural Balance. Late last year I was sent a Wonderbag to test. Mightily impressed, I thought a vegetarian workshop that incorporated the Wonderbag would be a nice idea. Charmain thought so to – and gave me the motivation I needed to make it a reality.

From this seed of an idea, surprising connections and synergies emerged. Through Janis Hopley, who is one of the faces of the Wonderbag in the Western Cape, I met RAWlean – a raw foodist who runs fabulous raw food workshops and has transformed her life through her diet. Take a look at her facebook page for info on upcoming events.

After going to one of RAWlean’s workshops and chatting about the idea for the Veggie Buntch workshop, I invited RAWlean to help host the Veggie Wonder Workshop and add her expertise and enthusiasm to the evening. Next, I had to find a venue and contacted Liz and Anne from Wild Organic in Woodstock. And what do you know? It turned out that RAWlean was going to be running a workshop at their store! (We bought as much of the fresh organic produce that we could directly from Wild Organic. Check out their site www.wildorganics.co.za and order some seasonal, local food.)

The last ingredient was great vegetarian friendly wine from MAN Vintners. Vegetarian wine pairing is not something that usually gets much focus, and winemaker Michelle and marketing manager Matthew added their wine knowledge to the event – rounding off the flavours and adding that little something extra to the evening. The interest in the workshop was overwhelming – hopefully I will be able to run more in the future.

The event

As this was the first workshop I’ve put together, I wanted to cram as much as I possibly could into the evening! Between RAWlean and myself we prepared:

  • Green juice
  • Sprout salad
  • Chickpea salad with Peppadews, tomatoes and basil
  • Spicy lentil salad with dried apricots and capers
  • Green vegetable curry with fried haloumi
  • Fig and date smoothie with almond milk
  • Chocolate mousse

All the guests also received their own Wonderbag – courtesy of Natural Balance – making this a really special workshop. To everyone who was there, thank you for your support.

Via Veggie Buntch

Veggie Wonder Workshop

Enjoy a night filled with food, wine and good company at the very first Veggie Wonder workshop

Brought to you by Veggie Buntch, in conjunction with Wonderbag and RAWlene.

Get ready for a 3-hour hands-on course that will introduce you to the benefits of being vegetarian and vegan, eating good raw and organic food; provide you with scrumptious recipes and show you how to use the eco-friendly Wonderbag.

We will be preparing a host of delicious meals – from starters and drinks to hearty mains and desserts – and you’ll be treated to vegetarian Man Vinters wine.
You’ll also receive your own Wonderbag to take home with you as well as an information pack including all the recipes we make on the night. So come and share in the wonders of cooking good, easy vegetarian meals.

The details:
Cost: R350 pp (including a Wonderbag valued at R170, all food and wine)
Date: 5th May 2011
Venue: Wild Organics in
Woodstock, Cape Town
Time: 18:30- 21:30
Book now: email editor@veggie.buntch.net or call 084 369 0995 to secure your spot.

Wild Organic
Wild Organic foods sources the finest, fresh, organic produce available in the Western Cape, and brings it to your front door in no time at all. Based in Woodstock, Cape Town, Wild services the greater Cape Town area with quality, local, organic produce.

Address: Wild Trading Store,
34 Salisbury Street, Cnr Fairview
Avenue, Woodstock, Cape Town.
Tel: 021 448 8109
Web: www.wildorganics.co.za

The Wonderbag
Winner of the 2010 Climate Hero Award, the Wonderbag is a heat retention/insulation cooker that no kitchen can afford to be without. It cooks wonderfully appetising  meals, while saving energy, helping to conserve the planet and making the kitchen a safer place for children.

At the Veggie Wonder workshop, you’ll receive your very own Wonderbag valued at R170 and learn how to use it.

Rolene (RAWlean) has transformed her eating lifestyle with a positive approach that has enabled her to successfully lose 37 kgs and heal her body from breast cancer.
Meet this inspiring individual as she introduces you to raw food preparation and understanding the connectedness of body, mind, heart and spirit.
Email: rolene@newbeginningsint.com
Tel: 082 700 6669/ 021 701 2973
Web: www.facebook.com/RAWlean

Please note:
Bookings will only be confirmed on receipt of payment to LJ Cooke, Acc: 4056884010, ABSA 632005