This week I watched an interesting TED talk about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. And it made me wonder if this could help conflict resolution in businesses. [As a side note, TED is an outlet that posts talks on a variety of topics. I have yet to find one that isn't incredibly interesting and practical. If you haven't checked it out, you should - www.ted.com]. I've posted the talk below, and I highly recommend you watch at least the first few minutes.
In short, Dan Pink talks about how we've built businesses around an extrinsic motivator system - it's all about the carrots and sticks. Apparently science shows such motivation works...but only when mechanical skills are involved - when the task involves simple rules and a clear destination. The reward system fails when there are more complex cognitive tasks, which have become infinitely more important in 21st century business; therefore, Mr. Pink proposed a different system to motivate performance. He suggested intrinsic motivation, based on the principles of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. Create an environment where people can do things they are interested in and want to do. Mr. Pink provided some examples: 20% time at Google (engineers get 20% of their time to work on any project they want) and ROWE (people have no work schedules, they just have to get the work done). In these circumstances workers thrive and there is more productivity and worker satisfaction.
Is this something that is being overlooked in resolving conflicts within businesses? I think it might be. But then again, I don't necessarily believe we will see a big shift in American business practices. The traditional expectation is putting in at least an 8 hour day in the office...and I don't know how fast people can shift from tradition. I think it would be unlikely that most businesses could make the transition from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation - even if it would be the best move for their business. People, and businesses, can get stuck in their ways. It takes a confident leader to believe that relinquishing power, structure, and control over employees can actually lead to more productivity. Furthermore, to make a tangential connection with the recent book club discussion on the ADRHub, you have those a**holes who would likely never want to give their colleagues the opportunity to use work time to develop personal interests.
What do you think? Can an intrinsic motivation system breathe a new life into conflict resolution in the workplace? Has anyone experienced 20% time or ROWE? Both sound appealing but it would be helpful to get an inside glance before making any accurate observations. If you could manage your own company, would you look to this intrinsic motivation system for your business models?