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Truth about what motivates us

Posted by on Jun 17, 2019

Our motivations are unbelievably interesting.00:17I’ve been working on this for a few years00:19and I find the topic still amazingly engaging and interesting,00:23so I want to tell you about that.00:25The science is really surprising. It’s a little bit freaky!00:30We are not as endlessly manipulable00:33and as predictable as you would think.00:35There’s a whole set of unbelievably interesting studies.00:38I want to give you two that call into question this idea00:41that if you reward something, you get more of the behavior you want00:44and if you punish something you get less of it.00:47Let’s go from London to the mean streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts,00:51in the northeast of the United States,00:53and talk about a study at MIT -00:55Massachusetts Institute of Technology.00:58They took a whole group of students and gave them a set of challenges.01:01Things like…01:10..They gave them these challenges and, to incentivise performance,01:14they gave them three levels of reward.01:17If you did pretty well, you got a small monetary reward.01:21If you did medium well, you got a medium monetary reward.01:24If you were one of the top performers,01:27you got a large cash prize.01:29We’ve seen this movie before.01:31This is a typical motivation scheme within organizations.01:35We reward the very top performers. We ignore the low performers.01:39Folks in the middle, OK, you get a little bit.01:43So what happens? They do the test. They have these incentives.01:47Here’s what they found out.01:49As long as the task involved only mechanical skill,01:53bonuses worked as they would be expected.01:56The higher the pay, the better the performance. That makes sense.02:00But here’s what happened.02:02Once the task called for even rudimentary cognitive skill,02:05a larger reward led to poorer performance.02:10This is strange. How can that possibly be?02:15What’s interesting is that these folks who did this are economists,02:20two at MIT, one at University of Chicago, one at Carnegie Mellon,02:24the top tier of the economics profession.02:27They’re reaching this conclusion that seems contrary02:29to what a lot of us learned in economics -02:32the higher the reward, the better the performance.02:35They’re saying that once you get above rudimentary cognitive skill,02:39it’s the other way around.02:42The idea that these rewards don’t work that way02:45seems vaguely left-wing and socialist, doesn’t it?02:49It’s a weird socialist conspiracy.02:51For those of you who have those conspiracy theories,02:54I want to point out the notoriously left-wing socialist group02:58that financed the research – the Federal Reserve Bank.03:01This is the mainstream of the mainstream coming to a conclusion03:05that seems to defy the laws of behavioral physics.03:08This is strange, so what do they do?03:11They say, “This is freaky. Let’s test it somewhere else.03:14″Maybe that $50, $60 prize03:16″isn’t sufficiently motivating for an MIT student!03:20″Let’s go to a place where $50 is more significant, relatively.03:24″We’re going to go to Madurai, rural India,03:28″where $50, $60 is actually a significant sum of money.”03:32They replicated the experiment in India, roughly as follows.03:35Small rewards – the equivalent of two weeks’ salary.03:39I mean, sorry, low performance – two weeks’ salary.03:43Medium performance – a month’s salary.03:47High performance – two months’ salary.03:50Those are real good incentives. You’ll get a different result here.03:54What happened was that the people offered the medium reward03:58did no better than the people offered the small reward.04:02This time around, the people offered the top reward did worst of all.04:05Higher incentives led to worse performance.04:08What’s interesting is that it isn’t that anomalous.04:10This has been replicated over and over again by psychologists,04:15by sociologists and by economists – over and over and over again.04:19For simple, straightforward tasks,04:22″if you do this, then you get that”, they’re great!04:26For tasks that are algorithmic,04:28a set of rules you have to follow and get a right answer,04:32″if then” rewards, carrot and stick, outstanding!04:35But when a task gets more complicated,04:39when it requires conceptual, creative thinking,04:42those kinds of motivators demonstrably don’t work.04:46Fact – money is a motivator at work, but in a slightly strange way.04:50If you don’t pay people enough, they won’t be motivated.04:53There’s another paradox here.04:55The best use of money as a motivator04:58is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table,05:01so they’re not thinking about money, they’re thinking about the work.05:05Once you do that, there are three factors that the science shows05:09lead to better performance, not to mention personal satisfaction -05:13autonomy, mastery and purpose.05:16Autonomy is our desire to be self-directed, direct our own lives.05:20In many ways, traditional notions of management run foul of that.05:24Management is great if you want compliance.05:26If you want engagement, which is what we want in the workforce today,05:29as people are doing more sophisticated things,05:32self-direction is better.05:34Let me give you some examples05:36of almost radical forms of self-direction in the workplace05:39that lead to good results.05:41Let’s start with Atlassian, an Australian software company.05:45They do something really cool.05:47Once a quarter on a Thursday, they say to their developers,05:50″For the next 24 hours, you can work on anything you want,05:54″the way you want, with whomever you want.05:57″All we ask is that you show the results to the company06:01″in this fun meeting – not a star chamber session,06:04″but with beer and cake and fun and things like that.”06:08It turns out that that one day of pure, undiluted autonomy06:12has led to a whole array of fixes for existing software,06:16a whole array of ideas for new products06:19that otherwise would never emerge – one day.06:21This is not the sort of thing that I would have done06:24before I knew this research.06:27I would have said, “You want people to be innovative?06:30″Give them a frickin’ innovation bonus.06:32″If you do something cool, I’ll give you $2,500.”06:35They’re saying, “You probably want to do something interesting.06:39″Let me get out of your way.”06:41One day of autonomy produces things that had never emerged.06:44Let’s talk about mastery – our urge to get better at stuff.06:47We like to get better at stuff.06:49This is why people play musical instruments on the weekend.06:52These people are acting in ways that seem irrational economically.06:56They play musical instruments? Why?06:58It’s not going to get them a mate or make them any money.07:02Cos it’s fun. Cos you get better at it and that’s satisfying.07:06I imagine that if I went to my first economics professor,07:10a woman named Mary Alice Shulman,07:13and I went to her in 1983 and said,07:16″Professor Shulman, can I talk to you after class?07:19″I got this idea for a business model and I want to run it past you.07:24″Here’s how it would work.07:27″You get a bunch of people around the world who do highly skilled work07:32″but they’re willing to do it for free07:35″and volunteer their time – 20, sometimes 30 hours a week.”07:39She’s looking somewhat skeptically there.07:42″But I’m not done!07:44″Then what they create, they give it away rather than sell it.07:48″It’s gonna be huge!” (LAUGHTER)07:51She would have thought I was insane.07:53It seems to fly in the face of so many things, but you have Linux07:57powering one out of four corporate servers in Fortune 500 companies,08:01Apache powering more than the majority of web servers, Wikipedia.08:06What’s going on? Why are people doing this?08:09Many are technically sophisticated, highly skilled people who have jobs.08:14OK? They have jobs! They’re working at jobs for pay,08:18doing sophisticated technological work.08:22And yet, during their limited discretionary time,08:25they do equally, if not more, technically sophisticated work,08:29not for their employer, but for someone else for free.08:33That’s a strange economic behavior. Economists have looked into it.08:37″Why are you doing this?” It’s overwhelmingly clear -08:40challenge and mastery, along with making a contribution, that’s it.08:44What you see more and more is the rise of the “purpose motive”.08:48More and more organizations want some kind of transcendent purpose.08:52Partly because it makes coming to work better,08:55partly because that’s the way to get better talent.08:58What we’re seeing now09:00is when the profit motive becomes unmoored from the purpose motive,09:04bad things happen.09:06Ethically sometimes, but also bad things, like “not good stuff”!09:11Like crappy products.09:13Like lame services.09:15Like uninspiring places to work.09:17When the profit motive is paramount09:20or when it becomes completely unhitched from the purpose motive,09:24people don’t do great things.09:26More and more organizations are realizing this,09:29disturbing the categories between what’s profit and what’s purpose.09:32I think that actually heralds something interesting.09:35The companies that are flourishing – profit, not-for-profit09:39or somewhere in between – are animated by this purpose motive.09:42Let me give you some examples.09:45The founder of Skype says, “Our goal is to be disruptive,09:48″but in the cause of making the world a better place.”09:52Pretty good purpose. Here’s Steve Jobs.09:54″I want to put a ding in the universe.”09:57That’s the kind of thing that might get you up, racing to go to work.10:01I think we are purpose maximizers, not only profit maximizers.10:07I think the science shows that we care about mastery very deeply10:11and that we want to be self-directed.10:13I think that the big take-away here10:15is that if we start treating people like people,10:18not assuming that they’re simply horses -10:21slower, smaller, better smelling horses -10:24if we get past the ideology of carrot and stick10:27and look at the science,10:29we can build organizations and work lives that make us better off.10:33They also have the promise to make our world just a little bit better.


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Left brain vs Right brain.

Posted by on May 13, 2019

The division of the brain is something scientists don’t like to talk about anymore. It enjoyed a sort of popularity in the 60s and 70s after the first split brain operations and it led to a sort of popularization which has since been proved to be entirely false it’s not true that one part of the brain does reason and the other does emotion bot are profoundly involved in both it’s not true that language resides only in the left hemisphere it doesn’t important aspects are in the right it’s not true that visual imagery is only in the right hemisphere lots of it is in the left and so in a sort of fit of despair people are given up talking about it but the problem won’t really go away because this organ which is all about making connection is profoundly divided it’s there inside all of us and it’s got more divided over the course of human evolution so the ratio of the corpus callosum to the volume of the hemispheres has got smaller ovary evolution and the plot thickens when you realize that one of the main if not the main function of the corpus callosum is in fact to inhibit is to inhibit the other hemisphere so something very important is going on here about keeping things apart from one another and not only that the brain is profoundly asymmetric it’s broader at the back on the left and broader on the right at the front and slightly juts forward and backward and it’s as though somebody got hold of the brain from underneath and given it a sort of sharp twist clockwise what is all that about if one just needed more brain space one would do it symmetrically the skull is symmetrical the box in which all this is contained is symmetrical why go to trouble to expand some bits of one hemisphere and some bits of another unless they were doing rather different things what are they doing well it’s not just we who have these divided brains birds and animals have them as well I think the simplest way to think of it is if you imagine a bird trying to feed on a seed against the background of a brittle pebbles it’s got to focus very narrowly and clearly on that little seed and be able to pick it out against that background but it’s also if it’s going to stay alive it’s got to actually keep quite different kind of attention open it’s got to be on the lookout for predators or for friends with conspecifics but for whatever else is going on it seems that birds and animals quite reliably use their left hemisphere for this narrow focused attention to something it already knows is of importance to it and they keep their right hemisphere vigilant broadly for whatever might be without any commitment as to what that might be and they also use their right hemispheres for making connections with the world so they approach their mates and bond with their mates more using the right hemisphere but then you come to the humans and it’s true that actually in humans – this kind of attention is one of the big differences the right hemisphere gives sustained broad open vigilance alertness where the left hemisphere gives narrow sharply focused attention to detail and people who lose their right hemispheres have a pathological narrowing of the window of attention.But humans are different the big thing about humans is their frontal lobes and the purpose is that part of the brain to inhibit to inhibit the rest of the brain to stop the immediate happening so standing back in time and space from the immediacy of experience and that enables us to do two things it enables us to do what neuroscientists are always telling us we’re very good at which is outwitting the other party being Machiavellian and that’s interesting to me because that’s absolutely right we can read other people’s minds and intentions and if we so want to we can deceive them but the bit that’s always curiously missed out here is that um it also enables us to empathize for the first time becaus there’s a sort of necessary distance from the world and if you’re right up against it you just bite but if you can stand back and see that other individual is an individual like me who might have interests and values and feelings like mine then you can make a bond there’s a sort of necessary distance as there is in reading too close you can’t see anything too far you can’t read it so the distance from the world that is provided is profoundly creative of all that is human both the Machiavellian and the erasiman now to do the machiavellian stuff to manipulate the world which i very important we need to be able to use interact with the world and use it for our benefit food is the starting point but we also with our left hemispheres grasp using our right hands things and make tools we also use that part of language to grasp things as we say it pins them down so when we already know something’s important and we want to be precise about it we use our left hemispheres in that way and to do that we need a simplified version of reality it’s no good if you’re fighting a campaign having all the information on all the plant species that grow in the in the terrain of battle what you need is to know the specifics of where certain things are that matter to you and so you have a map and you have little Flags it’s not reality but it works better the newness of the right hemisphere makes it a devil’s advocate is always on the lookout for things that might be different from our expectations it sees things in context it understands implicit meaning metaphor body language emotional expression in the face it deals with an embodied world in which we stand embodied in relation to a world that is concrete it understands individuals not just categories it actually has a disposition for the living rather than the mechanicals and this is so marked that even in the left-hander who is actually using their right hemisphere in daily lights to manipulate tools with their left hand it is their left hemisphere not the right hemisphere in which tools and machines are coded so this is very interesting and it changes the view of the body the body becomes an assemblage of parts in the left hemisphere if I had to sum it all up I would I would get away from all those things that we used to say reason and imagination let me make it very clear for imagine you need both hemispheres let me make it very clear for reason you need both hemispheres so if I had to sum this up I’d say the world or the left hemisphere dependent on denotative language and abstraction yields clarity and power to manipulate things that are known fixed static isolated decontextualized explicit general in nature but ultimately lifeless the right hemisphere by contrast yields a world of individual changing evolving interconnected implicit incarnate living beings within the context of the lived world but in the nature of things never fully graspable never perfectly known and to this world it exists in a certain relationship the knowledge is mediated by the left hemispheres however within a closed system it has the advantage of perfection that the perfection is brought ultimately the price of emptiness there’s a problem here about the nature of the two worlds they offer us two versions of the world and obviously we combine them in different ways all the time we need to rely on certain things to manipulate the world but for a broad understanding of it we need to use knowledge that comes from the right hemisphere and it’s my suggestion to that in the history of Western culture things started in the sixth century BC in the Augustine era and in the fifteen sixteenth century in Europe with a wonderful balancing ofthese hemispheres but in each case it drifted further to the left hemispheres point of view nowadays we live in a world which is paradoxical we pursue happiness and it leads to resentment and it leads to unhappiness and it leads in fact to an explosion of mental illness we’ve pursued freedom but we now live i a world which is more monitored by CCTV cameras and in which our daily lives are more subjected to what the Tocqueville called a network of small complicated rules that cover the surface of life and strangle freedom more information we have it in spades but we get less and less able to use it to understand it to be wise there’s a paradoxical relationship as I know as a psychiatrist between adversity and fulfillment between restraint and freedom between the knowledge of the part and wisdom about the whole it’s that machine model again that is supposed to answer everything but it doesn’t think about this even rationality is grounded in a leap of intuition there is no way you can rationally prove that rationality is a good way to look at the world we Intuit that it is very helpful and this is not new at the other end of the process rationality we know from girdle’s theorem we know from what Pascal was saying hundreds of years before girdle that the end point of rationality is to demonstrate the limits to rationality in our modern world we’ve developed something that looks awfully like the left hemisphere as well we prioritize the virtual over the real the technical becomes important bureaucracy flourishes the picture however is fragmented there’s a loss of uniqueness the howlers become subsumed in what and the need for control leads to a paranoia in society that we need to govern and control everything why this shift I think there are three reasons one is the left hemispheres talk is very convincing because it shaved everything that it doesn’t find fits with this1 model off and cut it out so this particular model is entirely self consistent largely because it’s made itself so I also call the left hemisphere the Berlusconi of the brain because because it controls the media is the one with which we it’s very vocal on its own behalf the right hemisphere doesn’t have a voice and it can’t construct these same arguments and I also think rather more importantly there’s a sort of Hall of Mirrors effect the more we ionize things that might have led us out of it and we just get reflected back into more of what we know about what we know about what we know and I just want to make it clear I’m not against whatever it is the left hemisphere has to offer nobody could be more passionate in an age in which we neglect reason and we neglect careful use of language nobody could be more passionate than myself about language and about reason it’s just that I’m even more passionate about the right hemisphere and the need to return what that knows about the broader context it turns out that Einstein thinking somehow presage this thing about the structure of the brain he said the intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant we have created a society that honors the servant but has forgotten the gift.


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