Daniel Pink on what motivates you, and two kinds of salary

Excellent video from Daniel Pink on What Motivates Youpurpose:

Daniel Pink says that for cognitive tasks – the bigger the reward, the poorer the performance.

What? So by paying people (especially those doing complex cognitive skills), we’re making them dumber?

Yes. At least people aren’t getting any smarter. Here’s why:

Pink’s explanation is that for whatever reason, overpaid experts are somehow impaired from achieving the results. In fact, the goal of paying people should be to get them to stop thinking about what they’re being paid (a seemingly paradoxical mentality for the failure-riddled wall street investment world). Once people are earning enough other motivations take over, and they can focus on the task itself, and dive into it with a self-driven purpose, provided the task feels worthwhile.

What? You mean our corporate overlords have to give us worthwhile work?

Maybe that’s why productivity hasn’t budged much in my lifetime for reasons other than computerization.

This resonates with what I often tell my parents on phone calls. “There are two kinds of salaries:” I explained, “Enough, and not enough.” Once you have enough, you should quit worrying about the money and start enjoying what you do, how you live, what you are passionate about.

The corollary to this rule is that you have two ways to improve your own satisfaction in life. You can increase your wealth or decrease your needs. I’m perfectly happy to live for the next 3 years in a poor African country spending one tenth of what I spend today. That allows me to work less and write more, possibly pursuing risky entrepreneurial ideas that could pay off for the community – but not if I’m scraping by in an expensive city. In a word – I can devote 110% of my thinking to important real-world problems I’ve yet to encounter in a science lab or office. These are the things that don’t turn a profit, but do change the world.

So what does this mean for cognitive evaluation tasks? Perhaps keeping financial incentives to a minimum for international development project evaluators is a good thing. Paying people enough is important, but showing them how their work will instantly transform relationships and projects into something better for the community is absolutely necessary.

Do governments and big organizations achieve this?

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