Archives For juli 2008

I am often puzzled by the idea, that employees will become much more effective, if a proper reward-system is implemented. Research consistently shows, that external motivators like punishment and benefits, doesn't incent people to do their best.

There's a really nice piece in the Washington Post on this:

Rewards and punishments guide the lives of most Americans. Young children are given stars for putting away their toys, kids earn a few bucks for mowing the lawn, and teens are told they will be grounded if they get in trouble. For adults, stock options, raises, demotions and firings become different kinds of carrots and sticks. Beliefs about the utility of rewards and punishments in motivating human behavior are deeply ingrained, and most people don't know that more than 100 research studies have shown that motivating people in this manner can have the unintentional effect of undermining their internal drives.

link: Shankar Vedantam - When Play Becomes Work -

Intrinsic motivation and internal drive is the key to make something remarkable. If I purely do something for a reward, I'll most likely only the amount of work needed to reep the reward. Even worse... a rewardsystem will introduce a state of competition between me and my co-workers.

It has even been proven that introducing rewards, will dampen the internal drive to do something. If you introduce payments for work that was previously con amore, you actually dampen the original excitement.

"If I pay my kids to do their homework, I am saying, 'You will get this if you do your homework,' but I am also saying, 'Homework is not likely to have intrinsic rewards,' "

It's difficult to let people be driven by their own internal motivation. It seems easier to hand out money, than to explore and build and grow people around you.

- Jens Poder


Having returned from two weeks on Omø, a small island, I decided to do a little experiment. Living in a little house on a remote island with no media or internet, and nothing to do but to stare at the sea, it makes you all Thoreau'ish.

"I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Wonderful quote! The idea of a life lived deliberately is a strong and beautiful one. Countless are the hours, I have wasted in front of my television, or surfing idly on the web. And how futile such evenings have been. Mostly... reaching for the remote have become a habit for my tired mind. After a long day, I simply haven't got any mental energy left to get started on something.

But after Omø I decided to give myself a weeklong challenge:

  • No television - Unless it's recorded to skip commercials and positively interesting.
  • No pointless surfing or RSS reading.
  • Time spent on computer is only to be creative. Not on taking in inputs, only on generating outputs.
I have now completed this challenge, an it has worked really well. I can highly
recommend it!

A lot of hours got released! Every night at eight o'clock, when the kid was fast asleep, there was a whole evening to get something interesting done. I have been Running. Discoursing. Writing. Sorting. Uncluttering. Every single evening I got something done, that made me feel content with myself.

Lesson Learned: Prepare to relax! When your fingers are itching for the remote, you have to have something else to do. This have made me add an extra context to my GTD system "Home - Play". On this list I put things that I find thoroughly enjoyable, that I can do in the evening. Get something prepared.

Enjoy the sound of silence: It is easier to relax, when the television isn't churning in your ears all night. Your mind will enjoy this breathing space after a day of working and parenting. You'll perhaps even daydream and stare out the window!

Go to bed earlier: This is my final benefit from the week. I got to bed earlier. There was no latenight comedy to keep me up past midnight. No feeling of unfullfillment to keep me haunting around the internet for something new and interesting.

So I'll keep up my life without television next week as well. Have any of you ever tried such an information diet? How did it work out for you?

- Jens Poder