E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

The Surprising Science of Motivation by Dan Pink

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las NievesIf you have been reading this blog for a while now, you would know more or less what my thoughts are on that topic that has always been, rather unfortunately, too!, associated very closely with traditional Knowledge Management and which doesn’t seem to have escaped as well the world of Social Computing: awards and incentives within a knowledge sharing culture!

In the past I have talked a few times about such concept of incentivising your knowledge workers with rewards so they go the extra mile to keep sharing their knowledge in a futile attempt to spark activity around your teams or communities. I am saying futile, because in over a decade that I have been working within the KM field I have yet to see an awards programme that is actually effective and efficient, not only from the business perspective, but from the knowledge workers’ one as well! It just hasn’t happened. And probably never will (And thank goodness for that!).

In the last couple of weeks, a good friend of mine, one of my various virtual KM mentors, David Gurteen, has been twittering rather often on a superb TED video clip he bumped into and which touches base on this very same topic, but with a wonderfully fresh new approach that I am sure is going to blow your minds and leave you speechless. At least, that’s the effect that it had in me as I watched through it over the weekend!

The video clip is a recording of a TED presentation earlier on this year, in Oxford, by Dan Pink that lasts for a little bit over 18 minutes and which I can assure you right now will be worth every penny of that time! In it, Dan gets to explain what science knows about incentives and awards and what the business seems to keep ignoring time and time again! And I couldn’t have agreed more with him on that statement!

Now, I know I could talk for ages on this topic, since it is one that comes close to my heart in detailing how much damage it has done to KM by itself, in general, but also to the corporate world by and large. And somehow, it looks like as social computing and social networking become more and more relevant by the day within the Enterprise world, we seemed not to have learned our lessons from the last few decades and we are making the very same mistakes by not even looking back as we did back then and that went wrong.

So before that continues to happen without remedy, I am going to stop right now and just point you to one of those TED videos that is surely going to rock your world, in every single way possible! On the topic of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation here is Dan Pink making a rather compelling case on why we need to change our ways and perceptions towards incentives if we would want to survive in the Knowledge Economy of the 21st century and leave behind what science has proved time and time didn’t work in the first place. No matter what approach!

Believe me, this is one of those videos you will be forwarding on a regular basis to various different people who keep asking you how they can incentivise their teams and communities to be top performers. Encourage them to watch it and see how it wows them to levels they haven’t seen, nor experienced, before! Yes, I know, it is that good! And I am surely glad that David tweeted about it a few times encouraging everyone to watch it. Because now that I have done so, I feel like we are on to another really exciting fight in the Enterprise 2.0 space… One where we will need to succeed! Or else! Here is the embedded code for it so you can watch it directly from here:

Fascinating, wasn’t it? I am sure you would agree with me it’s been one of the best TED videos we have seen in a long while. And while watching through it, I just couldn’t help thinking as well about one of those thought-provoking and rather revealing blog posts from another good friend, and virtual KM mentor as well, Dave Snowden, who couldn’t have explained it all in better words that these: Rendering Knowledge.

And, now, to finish up and wrap this blog post I thought I would leave you with a couple of truly inspirational quotes for those folks out there who consider themselves Knowledge Workers and who, I am sure, would be able to relate to them quite nicely. Both of these quotes, by the way, match so closely the main theme behind the TED video that’s incredibly surprising:

"A knowledge worker is someone who gets to decide what he does each morning" by Thomas A. Stewart

Or this other one, which, in my opinion, is just spot on:

"Knowledge workers are those people who have taken responsibility for their work lives . They continually strive to understand the world about them and modify their work practices and behaviors to better meet their personal and organizational objectives. No one tells them what to do. They do not take No for an answer. They are self motivated" by David Gurteen

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  1. Yes, Luis. An excellent presentation. I would like to offer, as further evidence for Mr. Pink’s argument, the observation that this argument has been made for some time by someone who is not only ignored by many, but vociferously castigated for bringing the subject up. I speak of Alfie Kohn. Mr. Kohn wrote a book in 1993 entitled “Punished by Rewards: The Trouble With Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes”.

    It’s surprising to me he gets no mention. He has been chanting this mantra for well over a decade . . . and been vilified for it but, as you and Mr. Pink point out, he has been correct from the beginning. He also has a book entitled “No Grades + No Homework = Better Learning”. How well do you think that sits with the kind of people who won’t let their students listen to the President of the United States encourage students to remain in school, work hard, and do what they love?

    Here’s a link to Alfie’s website and his body of work – http://www.alfiekohn.org/index.php

    Thanks for another interesting read, my friend.


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