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It’s not about the bonus

September 25, 2010

How do you stimulate creativity? Great work doesn’t come from the financial motivational carrots you’d expect. Instead, it’s all about understanding what underlies human drive. Companies like Google got this from the start. Daniel Pink explains this in engrossing RSA animate video above. IDEO’s Tim Brown’s thoughts about work go along the same lines:

But it’s not just about play. Good management comes also from knowing how to control play. Pixar, one of the world’s most creative companies, is a perfect example. Although employees navigate through the building on scooters and work in offices of their own design (including wooden huts), there are a set of processes that gently direct the progress of the work. All explored in an interview with President Ed Catmull here:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

A recent Economist article though questions whether sometimes play at work goes a little too far. Its perspective is that fun at work is nothing but coercion, and that in fact it brings employees further away from the Mad Men days where work-day drinking and smoking were the norm and no one had even heard of the term sexual harassment.

But I think it misses the point. Granted people during Mad Men’s time had a freer reign, but did it really stimulate work-place satisfaction and innovative thinking? And the motivational factors, including play, that are being embedded into modern companies aren’t designed to force fun per se, but instead to nurture creative thinking simply by having the right kind of environmental cues. Of course initiatives should not be empty efforts: they should not impose nor should they be considered sufficient alone. Having a slide in the middle of the office will be meaningless if the mentality that it suggests does not permeate through every other level of the company.

So it’s important and relevant to rethink how companies are managed, and to adjust existing models accordingly. This means it has to be holistic – from the very top of management hierarchies to the architecture of the office space. Considering changing expectations from Generation Y, individuals who themselves will become the future leaders of these workplaces, it’s not only necessary but inevitable.

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