Archive for June 16th, 2017

and the sticks too.

From Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by  Daniel H. Pink via Delancey.com (lightly edited)


“Behavioral scientists often divide what we do on the job or learn in school into two categories: ‘algorithmic’ and ‘heuristic.’ An algorithmic task is one in which you follow a set of established instructions down a single pathway to one conclusion. That is, there’s an algorithm for solving it. A heuristic task is the opposite. Precisely because no algorithm exists for it, you have to experiment with possibilities and devise a novel solution. Working as a grocery checkout clerk is mostly algorithmic. You do pretty much the same thing over and over in a certain way. Creating an ad campaign is mostly heuristic. So are designing new software, inventing new products…

“During the twentieth century, most work was algorithmic — and not just jobs where you turned the same screw the same way all day long. Even when we traded blue collars for white, the tasks we carried out were often routine. That is, we could reduce much of what we did — in accounting, law, computer programming, and other fields — to a script, a spec sheet, a formula, or a series of steps that produced a right answer. … The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimates that in the United States, only 30 percent of job growth now comes from algorithmic work, while 70 percent comes from heuristic work. A key reason: Routine work can be outsourced or automated; artistic, empathetic, non-routine work generally cannot.

“The implications for motivation are vast. Researchers such as Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile have found that external rewards and punishments — both carrots and sticks — can work nicely for algorithmic tasks. But they can be devastating for heuristic ones…

Rewards, by their very nature, narrow our focus. That’s helpful when there’s a clear path to a solution. They help us stare ahead and race faster. But ‘if-then’ motivators are terrible for [complex conceptual problems]. As experiments show, the rewards narrowed people’s focus and blinkered the wide view that might have allowed them to see new uses for old objects.”




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