Do you have Playful Incentives at Work?

Heiske shares with us one of her challenges during her morning routine….

The challenge in our morning routine

‘Our morning process to get my daughter ready for school is a real challenge. Despite crisp and clear time schedules, clocks and her own bad experiences with showing up late at school, she doesn’t feel the time pressure at all.

Where my son is aware of the time ticking, my daughter easily takes all the time she needs to dress up, eat and brush her teeth. And when she is finally ready to jump on her bike, she still comes across as not experiencing any time pressure since she cycles really slow.

Until last week….

Challenge of ‘slow cycling’ solved

What happened?

Our municipality has put a sign on our way to school. A sign that shows your actual speed. Suddenly my daughter experienced cycling to school as a fun game. The result: she cycles as fast as she can day by day to improve her own personal cycle record. What a relief!’

Heiske’s daughter is clearly motivated by increasing her performance.

Motivating people is one of the most puzzling aspect of leadership. We all know that a driven and motivated workforce produces better results. Motivation can be driven by a reward (carrot) or a risk (pain caused by the use of a stick). Yeah, that’s nothing new. But how does that work?

What are reasons to work?

In 1985, more than three decades ago, Deci and Ryan already researched motivation. Their story starts with six reasons to work:

  • Play – people do what they do because they like doing it. It brings them joy or even better, happiness.
  • Purpose – people do it because they are convinced the impact of their work is meaningful.
  • Potential – people work because it enables their development.
  • Emotional pressure – people work because some external force threatens their identity; they avoid disappointing themselves or others. Think about recognition, status and power.
  • Economic pressure – people work because of financial reasons.
  • Inertia – people work because they are used to, but they do not have a clue about the ‘why?’ they are doing it.

The first three (green) reasons have a direct relation to work. The work is perceived as fun, purposeful and enabling personal development. This is different for the last three reasons in red. These are not related to work. They make us think about the possible reward or disappointment caused by something else outside work.

How to create a motivated culture?

Many organizations try to create a motivated culture with game rooms, drinks, food, trips, sizable bonuses, large screen TVs and other amenities. However, based on research, high performing cultures are not driven by these things. Instead, high performing cultures maximize the play, purpose and potential felt by its people. Subsequently they minimize the emotional pressure (by e.g. reducing the hierarchy in the organization), economical pressure and inertia. 

Take a moment to reflect on yourself.

What drives you?

And what drives your team/organization culture?

Translating this knowledge to Heiske’s daughter….

Heiske chasing her daughter to speed up the process or classmates complaining her being late, is not the right motivator for this young girl. It only results in emotional pressure. It is the fun and potential part (getting better day by day) that motivates her to speed up the process and develop into a true road cyclist! 😉