How to Motivate People: Skip the Bonus and Give Them a Real Project

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Science has managed to reveal some crazy things that fly in the face of almost every commonly accepted management practice. Here’s the latest: Rewards for top performers lead them to worse performance. And if you want to foster innovation, bonuses won’t work either. Rather, it’s all about letting people slip from under line management and strike out on their own, on projects they care about.

Dan Pink lays all that out in this new video, which illustrates a talk he gave at the RSA (a kind of British version of TED):

Wild stuff, and all the more unsettling because of the current mess on Wall Street. It seems like common sense that you should reward the highest bonuses to the top earners. But instead, it seems like the only thing we fostered was a system where money mattered more than results. Which sounds obvious in retrospect, but it’s remarkable that science has shown this to be almost universally true.

The fact that science has also created a new vision for workplace performance–fueled less by management and more by individual goals–is shocking.

Pink tackles those themes at length in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. CK