Motivation At Work

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A video which explains some of the surprising science of workplace motivation. Workers who don’t respond to the elementary carrot-stick paradigm? Workers who gratefully take on unpaid work to make the world better?  Well, it turns out that the kind of work you do has more to do with what sort of rewards motivate you. The carrot-stick, cash-based rewards paradigm only works with fairly rudimentary (e.g., mechanical) tasks. Once the type of work you do graduates to more cognitively-challenging, creative work, the motivations change entirely. In fact, applying the carrot-stick motivation paradigm to these high-cognition tasks actually produces the opposite effect!

It turns out that thinking workers (can’t break this down by blue/white collar) want to know their work means something other than enhanced return for shareholders. All this time we’ve been led to believe that money is the primary motivator, when it isn’t. Not only is it not the best motivator, it can actually be detrimental to an employee’s motivation.

Watch this video. It’s engaging, completely teachable, and illuminating.


WP: The best financial reform? Let the bankers fail

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The Washington Post’s James Grant makes the point many (if not most) Americans have been making since the outset of the current economic downturn: if the free market has any hope of working, it is imperative to let the banks fail.

The trouble with Wall Street isn’t that too many bankers get rich in the booms. The trouble, rather, is that too few get poor — really, suitably poor — in the busts. To the titans of finance go the upside. To we, the people, nowadays, goes the downside. How much better it would be if the bankers took the losses just as they do the profits.

Happily, there’s a ready-made and time-tested solution. Let the senior financiers keep their salaries and bonuses, and let them do with their banks what they will. If, however, their bank fails, let the bankers themselves fail. Let the value of their houses, cars, yachts, paintings, etc. be assigned to the firm’s creditors.

Of course, there are only so many mansions, Bugattis and Matisses to go around. And many, many such treasures would be needed to make the taxpayers whole for the serial failures of 2007-09. Then again, under my proposed reform not more than a few high-end sheriff’s auctions would probably ever take place. The plausible threat of personal bankruptcy would suffice to focus the minds of American financiers on safety and soundness as they have not been focused for years.

Couldn’t have said it better myself (and didn’t).

A new, fun horizon for data visualization

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This video was prepared by a friend, documenting the amount & type of development work performed by coders on his web business communications suite. This takes time sheets to a whole new level. The question I have is: does this style of visualization help managers better understand the workload/flow of their employees, does it help bring about a desired outcome, or is it just kinda’ neat. I’m leaning toward the latter (unless perhaps used as a real-time monitoring platform).

Murder advocate pinched for yayo in Miami

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Much as I oppose the war on drugs, this couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy:

Jamaican reggae artist, Buju Banton, is in a federal lockup in Miami after being charged with intent to distribute cocaine.

First off: what observant rastaman deals in white powders, even to Babylon? Second, in the intervening years since Pato Banton first sang “I do not sniff the coke I only smoke sensimilla,” has Buju learned nothing?

In the wake of Buju’s countless songs and public statements declaring among other vile sentiments “there is no end to the war between me and faggot and it’s clear,” I admit I am one baldhead who shed nuh tear to think of Buju’s pending hitch in a Florida prison.

Nature = nurture

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According to Dr. Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester, contextualizing ourselves in nature makes us more human. The next obvious question is: what of those people who never get out into nature, or who only see it through the windscreen of an automobile moving 70MPH? Is alienation the opposite result? Dr. Ryan seems to suggest so:

“Across all four studies, people exposed to natural elements rated close relationships and community higher than they had previously. The questionnaire also measured how immersed viewers were in their environments and found that the more deeply engaged subjects were with natural settings, the more they valued community and closeness. By contrast, the more intensely participants focused on artificial elements, the higher they rated wealth and fame.”

The ayes have it: kill your television; go fly a kite.

Ian Tyson

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Tom & I saw Ian Tyson at the Tractor Tavern night before last. We went in with tempered expectations –Mr. Tyson is after all 76 years of age– but came out believers. The clear baritone that intoned ‘Four Strong Winds’ in 1964 with Sylvia Fricker (later Tyson) is gone, but has lost none of its strength or accuracy. Ian Tyson can still hit his notes –even the high ones– but now he hits them with a bucket full of gravel.

If you’re a fan and get a chance to see him, you won’t be disappointed.

Guerilla Online Education

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I encountered this tidbit on the Microsoft Blog in the P-I this morning:

In a major milestone for the tech industry, the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday voted to adopt Web-based Google Apps as the replacement for the city government’s aging e-mail and Internet services.

The tentative approval also marks a victory for Google over Microsoft, the leader in productivity software with Outlook, Exchange, Word and other applications. Each company spent tens of thousands of dollars in lobbying, though the Redmond-based software giant handily outspent its Silicon Valley rival.

In fact, the final decision was between Google and services provided by open-source leader Novell, said Gail Thomas-Flynn, Microsoft’s vice president of U.S. state and local government.

I’ve been advocating the adoption of free or low-cost web-based applications for distance learning scenarios since I started teaching online. Having experienced Blackboard, ANGEL & Wimba I feel like the bulk of the functionality there can be duplicated for pennies (comparatively) using free or low-cost online applications like the Google suite of tools, free discussion board platforms like phpBB, and video- and telecommunications packages like Skype or the AOL Instant Messenger/iChat.

I’m working in a graduate program populated by telecommuting visiting scholars & distance learning students. We’re preparing to rely on our in-house IT operation fairly heavily to leverage ANGEL & Wimba into our way of teaching. What if we conducted the bulk of our IT operations in the public workspace, with a minimal office footprint for records, live help, and organizational interface with the university? That convergences of teachers and learners develop spontaneously online is axiomatic (e.g. any number of advice, help, discussion bulletin boards). Could a community of educators set a target (create a curriculum), populate the pathway to its achievement with esteemed teachers, and conduct the course of study ‘in the clear,’ without the benefits of association with a university at all? As attracted as we all are to TLAs, can such a program establish its legitimacy without accreditation? Could the eminence of the assembled faculty deliver sufficient gravitas?