Monday, March 7, 2011

Dan Pink's talk on motivation - natural governance justification

Dan Pink's excellent TED talk on motivation is one of my favorites but also terribly wrong.  His thesis is that performance incentives harms productivity in many creative fields, and he thinks he proves it with experimental evidence.  What his example experiments actually demonstrate is that faster deadlines (imposed through incentives) harm the quality of solutions to creative/analytic problems.

If I am offered payment for solving a Sudoku puzzle in 10 seconds or 30 seconds, I will simply make wild guesses at the solution desperately hoping it is correct.  It is not financial incentives that cause me to fail or take longer to come up with the solution, it is impossible/impractical deadlines.

The second part of Dan Pink's presentation focuses on worker autonomy.  This part is largely correct.  Employers can leverage employee creative drive to have some employees innovations enrich the enterprise.  It is in fact a successful motivator for many, as the recognition for accomplishment in doing something intrinsically enjoyable is more satisfying than slaving away faster on typically boring employer-mandated activities.  What most of these autonomy promoting management practices have in common is that they are simply the latest step in the centuries-old manipulation techniques of telling people they are freer so that they may more enthusiastically participate in slave structures.

For systemic solutions to be accepted/funded by the market, they just need to be slightly less corrupt than previous models.  Dan Pink's inadvertent discovery of deadline restrictions inhibiting correct problem solutions, is just discovery of the most obvious restriction.  A self-justifying tautology:  All restrictions inhibiting correct problem solutions, inhibit correct problem solutions.  One other restriction important enough to address can be generally described as the aristocratic world view of the would-be patrons of the solution:  Profit maximization (with large aristocratic share) over value maximization, and protection of aristocratic systemic hierarchical attitudes.

Natural solutions attempt to create balanced equilibriums among system participants striving through egalitarian fairness to participants, enhancing trust, and sharing risk and responsibility.  For a solution to be sustainable it must be free of anti-idealist corruptions, not simply improve some stakeholder interests.  Communal partnerships and natural governance are such ideas addressing worker autonomy by encouraging them to join as equal owner-partners of the enterprise, and create processes for gigantic partnerships to manage themselves efficiently.  The concept of basic income is a greater social tool for eliminating the deadline-like restrictions on individual's pursuit of happiness.  Wikipedia and Open Source Software are also natural solutions, but lower financial incentives for participation are not the relevant driver.  Genuine autonomy to provide value intrinsically are (in case of open source software, or free concerts, ancillary paid services and career growth are also motivators).

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