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Lectures for a New Year: What Motivates Us, Aside from Money

In this RSA Animate video, author and former Al Gore speechwriter Dan Pink discusses a series of studies about what motivates people -- and more practically, what motivates workers. He takes apart the simplistic notion that monetary rewards result in better performance; such rewards do improve performance for purely mechanical tasks, but when you get into knowledge work, it's not just about the money. In this talk, Pink lays out a simple set of guidelines that will help any worker or employer understand what actually improves performance -- and that could lead to a better workplace for all of us. Have a look! Also, keep an eye open for an onscreen misspelling of "weird."

Topics: what does and does not motivate people; lots of examples; Google, Wikipedia, Linux, and OSS.

For: anyone who works, especially managers.

Further Reading

Dan Pink wrote a book on this topic (boy, that's really a theme with these lectures, isn't it?) called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. The Amazon reviews are mainly very positive, but the most popular is a 2-star review that distills the important parts of the book -- and effectively says, if you watch a video of Pink giving his talk (like you did above), you've already got the gist of the book. Anybody in the audience care to comment on the book?

Transcript

There's a good dotSUB transcript of the RSA Animate video above.

Bonus Points

The full forty-minute lecture by Dan Pink is below. He also gave a somewhat similar (but shorter) TED Talk.

Suggest a Lecture

Got a favorite lecture? Is it online in some video format? Leave a comment and we’ll check it out!

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Humblebraggarts Are the Worst (Science Says So)
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Humblebraggarts. We all know (at least) one: that person who takes a woe-is-me tack to ostensibly "complain" about something when the real intent is to boast.

"It's noon, I haven't had a cup of coffee, and the espresso machine at this Mercedes dealer is broken. FML!"

"Have been sitting on the runway for 30 minutes. Next time I'm flying commercial instead of private."

In many ways, it's another version of #FirstWorldProblems, and social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have only made the practice more pervasive. As TIME reports, a new study has concluded that people see right through this fake humility—and like people less for doing it.

Researchers at Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted a series of nine experiments, including a week-long diary study and a field experiment, to both identify the ubiquity of the behavior and then determine its effectiveness as a form of self-presentation. Their findings, which were published in the January Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, determined that if you're going to brag, people would rather you just be transparent about it.

"It's such a common phenomenon," Ovul Sezer, study co-author and an assistant professor of organizational behavior at UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School, told TIME. "All of us know some people in our lives, whether in social media or in the workplace, who do this annoying thing. You think, as the humblebragger, that it's the best of both worlds, but what we show is that sincerity is actually the key ingredient."

Of the 646 participants, 70 percent of them could recall a recent humblebrag they'd heard—the majority of which (about 60 percent) were complaint-based. But the study showed, overwhelmingly, that any statements that could be perceived as humblebragging (whether complaint- or humility-based) "are less effective than straightforward bragging, as they reduce liking, perceived competence, compliance with requests, and financial generosity," according to the study's authors.

"Despite the belief that combining bragging with complaining or humility confers the benefits of each strategy," the study concluded, "we find that humblebragging confers the benefits of neither, instead backfiring because it is seen as insincere.”

In other words: they're not fooling anyone.

"If you want to announce something, go with the brag and at least own your self-promotion and reap the rewards of being sincere, rather than losing in all dimensions," Sezer said—though she suggested that an even more effective tactic is to find someone else to boast on your behalf. "If someone brags for you, that's the best thing that can happen to you, because then you don't seem like you're bragging," she told TIME.

However, Sezer's final piece of advice was not to be too hasty in your dismissal of humblebraggarts as a whole. "We all do it, to some extent," she said. "I hope I don't sound like I'm humblebragging when I talk about this research."

[h/t: TIME]

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Can You Figure Out Why the Turtles Bulge in This Optical Illusion?
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Ready for a little vision test? Akiyoshi Kitaoka, a Kyoto-based psychologist who studies visual illusions, created this eye-bending image that appears to bulge and bend. In the image, shared on Syfy.com, the horizontal and vertical lines actually run straight across and down, but they look like they ripple, and the shapes (Kitaoka calls them turtles) look like they’re different shades of gray, even though they’re an identical color.

As Phil Plait explains for Syfy, the key is in the corners—the turtle “legs,” if you will. “At each vertex between turtles, they form a rotated square divided into four smaller squares," he writes. "Note how they're offset from one another, giving a twist to the vertices.” If you zoom in closely on the image, the lines begin to straighten out.

The difference in the colors, meanwhile, is a result of the contrast between the black and white pixels outlining the turtles. If the outlines of the turtles were entirely black or entirely white, instead of a combination, the grays would look identical. But the contrast between the two fools your eyes into thinking they're different.

To see more of Kitaoka’s illusion art, you can follow him on Twitter @AkiyoshiKitaoka. Then, go check out these other amazing optical illusions.

[h/t Syfy]

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