Give attention, not bribes

I’m often guilty of giving my three year old a treat when I need her do something quickly – without asking questions. I know this is probably Not Good but, stuck for time and patience, I do it anyway.

Now I read over on my friend Graeme Semple’s blog that parenting expert Elizabeth Hartley Brewer has published two whole books on the subject, Raising and Praising Girls / Raising and Praising Boys, where she points out that once a child realises that treats are available, they simply manipulate their parents in order to secure more treats.

Graeme asked whether bankers’ bonuses really work, and linked to David Bolchover’s new book, Paycheck: Are Top Earners Really Worth It? Bolchover’s work reminds me of Dan Pink’s research into intrinsic versus extrinsic motivators (see Pink’s great TED talk on the subject).

The trouble with intrinsic motivators is that they take a lot more time to establish: a strong sense of community, a set of meaningful values and cohesive social capital don’t appear overnight (unlike bonuses).

Look at famous examples of truly networked organisations: Dee Hock’s Visa, Ricardo Semler’s Semco and The Co-operative. It’s clear that listening and collaboration have been built into the very fabric of these companies – and that these values have been built upon over time. From the outset, bosses like Hock and Semler took time to really pay attention to employees’ needs.

In this way, good management is very much like good parenting: there are no shortcuts. 

0 thoughts on “Give attention, not bribes

  1. Jan

    Have you read Julian Le Grand’s "Motivation, Agency and Public Policy: Of Knights and Knaves, Pawns and Queens" and/or Richard Titmuss’ "The Gift Relationship: From Human Blood to Social Policy"? Think you would enjoy… I don’t hold much resonance with Le Grand’s theories myself but they are nevertheless highly influential in policy circles. Titmuss goes all out in the other direction and is rather paternalistic but I think has a more nuanced understanding of what it is to be human.

  2. Jemima Gibbons

    Hi Jan.Thanks for your comment and no, I haven’t read either Le Grand or Titmuss but they look really interesting – just wishlisted both books on Amazon :)I’ve got a dog-eared copy of Nudge (Thaler & Sunstein) – the authors talk about "libertarian paternalism", which sounds like it might be a kind of half-way house between your two guys.I often think about Nudge when I’m in the new Westfields shopping centre in Shepherds’ Bush – leather sofas and plush carpets everywhere, clearly an effort to make people "behave" better. The funny thing is, they do seem to.There’s a surprising lack of chewing gum etc on the carpets, but then maybe that’s just a highly efficient cleaning service…


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