October 13, 2013

Dan Pink's Arguement

After Dan Pink’s speech ‘The Puzzle of Motivation’, the class had a good discussion on ‘whether financial incentive plays an positive role in encouraging employees to get more involved and engaged in work’. Paul, armed with Demin’s theory, affirmatively argued from his past experience that financial incentive does not work. I was shocked, as it sounded way too idealistic to me. Throughout the years of my education, I have always been taught (with my own experience as well) that companies are best to set up a reward-punishment scheme for their employees as methods of motivation, as well as the way of showing fairness towards the work loads each one individual commit to the company. Pink’s speech is mind blowing, yet it was revolutionary from what I have learnt in school before, and I simply could not get my head around.

1. Does Financial Incentive Work?

I believe financial incentive definitely works. Obviously, if the leaders of the companies can get all their employees to WANT to work and LOVE to work and to be 100% devoted, that would be the best case, and in this case, I would agree with Demin and Pink. Yet in reality, it may not always be the case, people have their self-interests and they do get lazy sometimes, etc., then a reward-punishment system would be more effective and efficient. So I would still think that should be a set-up standards of employees’ performance level, and a financial inventive scheme should be adapted as a way of insurance and guarantee of the productivity. Meanwhile the company leaders should search for ways that will motivate their employees and make them want to give out their best performance themselves, if they manage doing so, wonderful, but if not, then at least you have got the financial inventive as an insurance.

2. The Difference between Eastern and Western Mindsets

When I was struggling with understanding Paul’s idea, other classmates seem to be quite familiar with such way of thinking. Then I realised how different the East and the West think, how they treat their employees and how they have developed their company cultures as well as the value of the society they live in. The east is often seemed to be way too hard-working, strict and less caring, while the west is much more relaxed. This difference does not only apply to companies, but can also be found when comparing the education systems of the east and west. When I studied in China before coming to the UK, I had classes from 7am to 5pm, followed by a 3-hour study session at night when we supposed to be doing homework, which would be handed in the next morning. The system was extremely strict, and the pressure coming from your teachers was indescribable. Under such system, students are forced to keep studying and learning. It is therefore efficient, and the result is apparent and positive. The UK system is more about self-studying. This can be very affective when it comes to encouraging students to actively think and question the existing literatures by themselves, yet it runs the risk that the students may not be very self-disciplined. I would not argue that one is better than the other. I can see from both sides and I enjoyed both ways of teaching, yet it would be great that if the two system can be combined, that is to say, the English with more teaching hours and teacher-student interactions, while the Chinese gives students more opportunities to learn, think and reflect by themselves.

This leads back to what I have argued earlier, I would argue that do search for effective ways of motivation, but do not deny the effect of financial incentive too, as money is powerful after all.


- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Paul Roberts

    Your blog is interesting because it helps to explain why so many organizations employ financial incentives. We tend to do and think what we are conditioned to do and think. In this case people have been conditioned to think that if we pay you more you will work harder and if you perform well as an individual we will reward you with more money or other extrinsic benefit.

    Dan Pink’s case which he presented on TED was based on evidence, not idealism or wishful thinking. The evidence consistently shows over a period of half a century that for situations in which even elementary cognitive skills are required, financial rewards do not work and yet organizations all over the world continue to ignore the evidence.

    So, it would appear that prevailing thinking is still steeped in early 20th Century industrialization which employed piece work for mind-numbing tasks. In the 21st Century we talk about the increasing need for creativity and innovation and therefore, we need to change the environment in which people study and work to one in which innovation and creativity thrives and for that to happen we have to tap into peoples’ intrinsic motivation.

    14 Oct 2013, 08:20


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