March 14, 2010

I’ve just finished reading the recently published book, “Drive” by Daniel Pink.  I bought it having seen his talk on motivation, delivered at the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford last year online.In it he argues that the old approach to rewarding people using “carrots and sticks” is outdated and doesn’t work for jobs that are about innovation and initiative. He advocates a new “intrinsic” approach to motivation to replace the outdated “extrinsic” approach for this type of job.  The new model of motivation has three elements:

  • autonomy – allowing people to direct their own work and organise their workload
  • mastery – feeding the urge to do work that is enjoyable and to get better at what you do 
  • purpose – doing something with a larger objective rather than self-interest

I think that he makes a strong case and can see how it applies to my own work. I can see how it particularly applies to my work as an Associate Lecturer for the Open University. I’ve given up the role this year after working for them for 6 years.  The work doesn’t pay very well, much less than my “day job”, so I clearly wasn’t motivated by their “carrot”. The pay was welcome, but was not so great.  I did it because I enjoyed the work, think that I did a good job, and also was committed to the OU’s purpose and ethos. The first two reasons fit into what Pink calls “Mastery” and the third is what he refers to as “Purpose“. Within limits (you have deadlines to meet for marking assignments and set dates for tutorials) I could largely choose when I wanted to do the work, fitting it around my other commitments – so I had a large degree of “Autonomy“. 

I quit this year though. The OU is under severe financial pressures and this has had an impact on ALs. The size of tutor groups have been increased (in some cases this has been achieved by making some ALs redundant) meaning that there are more scripts to mark leading to a heavier workload.  So called e-TMAs (assignments delivered electronically) have been made virtually compulsory, but no thought has been given to whether the assignments need to be modified to take account of this. I’ve found that marking on-screen rather than working with paper scripts is a lot more time-consuming and tiring to mark. This has further increased the workload. This has affected my autonomy and my enjoyment. The OU management style has also changed becoming more aggressive and making more demands on ALs. My feeling of purpose has also been eroded.

As my intrinsic motivation has been eroded the old-fashioned extrinsic motivational factors become more important and now the amount they pay comes into the equation and it quite simply isn’t enough.

Perhaps the management types running the OU need to read this book. On the other hand, it probably wouldn’t do any good. I think the OU are keen to cut back on ALs, despite the impact will have on teaching quality. Financial restraints have to be managed and staff numbers need to be cut – and ALs are an easy target.


Bankers and their bonuses

February 5, 2010

I think most people are appalled by Bankers giving themselves massive bonuses after being prevented from going bust by taxpayers. There’s a lot I could go on about here, but lets just look at one aspect. The reason we are told why these obscene payouts are necessary are that they are needed to motivate these employees to do well in these “skilled” tasks. Perhaps the banks need to watch this video of Daniel Pink’s talk at TED Global last year.

I’ve just bought Daniel Pink’s book “Drive” which expands on the points made in his talk. Should be interesting.