Why Sisyphus is most likely not motivated

What motivates us to work? In spite of many research finding, the belief that money does is still wide spread. Now think of Sisyphus, the king that, according to Greek mythology, has to roll a rock up a mountain for all eternity, and whenever he gets close to the top, the rock rolls all the way down again. If he had the choice and he got a lot of money for it, would he be motivated to keep on doing this?

Based on his TED Talk, behavioural economist Dan Ariely would most likely say no. He concludes from his experiment that it is meaning that motivated people. Moreover, people understand that meaning is important, but they don’t know how important it is. Acknowledging someone’s performance is a great motivator, whereas ignoring it is almost as bad as shredding it: it makes motivation plummet. And he confirmed the findings from his experiments in the “real world”.

For managers, team leaders and all those who are in charge of other employees, the consequence of these findings is pretty simple: when employees complete a task for you, acknowledge what they have done. Let them show or explain it to you. It might not always be possible to implement what they suggest. Furthermore, sometimes projects end before they have even begun, and whatever employees have completed until then is often of no further use. Moreover, what employees do is not always good, so it is not always possible to praise what they have produced. That’s just the way it is. But we should always acknowledge the effort they have put into it. When doing so, remember what we wrote about establishing high quality connections: always turn your full attention to the person. This does not require much effort. But the effects can be huge.

Thinking, fast and slow

The 2011 book by Nobel Memorial Prize winner in Economics Daniel Kahneman outlines his research over the last few decades. Fast and slow refers to two systems we use when making decisions: System 1 is fast, instinctive and emotional, whereas System 2 is comparably slow, deliberative, and logical. He explains in which settings the systems work and where they have flaws. We came across a number of nice, short videos in which some of his ideas are explained.

 

The 2011 book by Nobel Memorial Prize winner in Economics Daniel Kahneman outlines his research over the last few decades. Fast and slow refers to two systems we use when making decisions: System 1 is fast, instinctive and emotional, whereas System 2 is comparably slow, deliberative, and logical. He explains in which settings the systems work and where they have flaws. We came across a number of nice, short videos in which some of his ideas are explained.

 

First, there is one that explains System 1 and System 2 and both the settings in which they work well and in which they are not quite as suitable.

 

 

We found two videos that explain in a bit more detail the biases our mind has. In the first one, it is outlined how our brain makes use of what you know and does not take into account what you might not know.

 

 

The second one explains anchoring, our tendency to rely too much on the first piece of information presented to us when making subsequent decisions.

 

 

In an interview with Jesse Singal on “The Daily Beast”, Daniel Kahneman explains what the practical implications of these biases are and why we better be aware of them. For example, when it comes to selection of leaders, he suggests we do not vote for the overconfident ones, but rather look at their achievements and make our choice based on that – which seems to be easier in organisations than in politics. When asked what he suggests in order to make sure that we make our decisions based on System 2, he gives quite a simple answer: “Slow down, sleep on it, and ask your most brutal and least empathetic close friends for their advice.”