Monday, September 9, 2013

About muting mermaids and celebrating coffee machines

Using a carrot and a stick, compensation, prestige or whatever incentive or mermaid's song you like is considered best practice for motivating employees in an enterprise...

And yet, these are creativity killers.

Incentives talk to our primal brain, to do what someone else want.
Our primal brain wants to compare itself, measure, be noticed, and approved by other.
We can't really master completely that part of our primal brain.

That's why I think the best step for creative workers when incentives are showing up, it to mute it.
Just do not play by this game, it will kill your creativity, the greatest human specialty.

Why are these incentives killing creativity ?
Well, in fact, it is not the incentives that kill creativity, but some kind of incentives.
All incentive that have a social impact are bad.
In other words, all incentives where primary motivation is comparison with peers is bad.
It ends up creating a competitive environment. Such environment is good for manual task, but destructive for knowledge task.

Why is a competitive environment bad for knowledge tasks ?
Knowledge tasks involve creativity. That means that the path from point A to point B is unknown, and sometimes, point B is also unknown.
Creativity is what find point B and the path to it.

Where does creativity comes from ?
Creativity is the creation of ideas, and ideas are created from other ideas merging into a single mind.
It comes from dot connecting on past experience into a beautiful artifact.
So to create an idea, you need other ideas.

Where do these ideas come from ?
It comes from your own experience, the only thing that make you different from me.
And it comes from your peers talking with you at the coffee machine.

When you are in a competitive environment, and that ideas are the most precious resource odd things happen... and don't forget that ideas are easy to copy, like any data.
Peers stops talking at the coffee machine in fear that someone else reap the reward.

That's all ! when peers stop talking nat the coffee machine, innovation stops. No brainstorming session will change the game, as each participant will protect his ideas and attack others.

Make them talk at the coffee machine.

What is the alternative world view to develop creativity ?
Look at the open source world.
There is no incentive, the goal is contribution. Contribution is its own reward.

Work as in open source, not necessarily free, but where you feel you can make a contribution.
We are in this world to create only with a contribution mindset we can extend or creativity to its full power.

This idea of contribution over incentives is comes from the Art of Possibility, which I highly recommend reading... as Benjamin Zander is my favorite speaker !

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