Thursday, May 20, 2010

What motivates knowledge workers?

I just listened to a teleconference where the presentor has an accent and it was tough to listen. In those situations using visuals like a presentation or typing on an etherpad page or whiteboard can help too. Then I found this wonderful video here ... a cartoonist draws the story while it is told. A beautiful form!

But the content is equally appealing to me. Daniel Pink (I liked his book A whole new mind) explains how motivation of knowledge workers works. When paid more, they perform less. It does work to motivate people with payment when the tasks are mechanical. For knowledge workers, it doesn't work. What they are really looking for is self-direction and autonomy, mastery and making a contribution. That's what drives them. An example is giving of a firm where employees were allowed 100% self-direction for 24 hours. And then asked to share, which yielded nice work.

I recognize this from my own experiences working in organizations. I'm much happier working on my own, enjoying my autonomy. I think it is hard for organizations to offer that space. One thing I'm missing is that knowledge workers in organisations also need recognition. I had a hard time because I was always searching for recognition of my work, whereas managers were hardly interesting in what I was really doing. I hear this too in the experiences of friends who work in organizations. Managers tend to want to take the credit, which bereaves workers of the needed recognition for their contributions.

Well, if you have 10 minutes and are interested, watch it..

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