Just earlier this week, I met a fascinating entrepreneur building a desk that you can love — because it helps you to stand more, and optimizes for your health and thriving (while you do work). He’s one of the designers of the iPod and iPad so he wants that kind of design thinking into your desk. Never once did he mention money and profits as the source of his fulfillment. He found meaning in the purpose, not in the profits.
What is a source of fulfillment in your life? Is it work? Or perhaps a non-profit you work with? Or perhaps the family you are raising? Whatever it is, I bet it is something you personally value. Sometimes that comes from our paid work, our careers, and sometimes not.
From my own experience of 20+ years working with or in “corporate” Fortune 500 work and in the research I follow — work satisfaction was nearly obliterated by the pressures of deadlines, of work that went no where, of overwork, of bosses demands that made no sense, of being told what to do without asking what you know that could solve the problem.
So it was through that lens that I watched this recent talk by researcher and professor Dan Ariely. Some of you might know of him — a behavioral economist who has written Predictably Irrational & Others. This talk is on the meaning of work:
Ariely points out that when we think about work, the “usual” thinking about motivation is tied to payment. In other words conventional thinking is that money is why people work. He shares a series of specific projects he’s been doing that *proves* how much meaning, engagement and ownership change our experience of value creation. It’s a great set of stories about how much we care if someone will use our work, how much we fundamentally care about the thing we’ve made ourselves. Like I said in Social Era, value creation has changed; You don’t have to sell me the thing I helped make. In other words, when people co-create products and services, it disrupts the thinking of traditional strategists and their “value chain”. In the Social Era, value creation derives from commitment, not a transaction where the consumer is at the end of a long supply chain. Meaning, co-creation, overcoming challenges, sense of ownership, relationship to our personal identity, and — of course — pride all matter in how value is derived.
There’s plenty of empirical data to support the strategic direction Ariely talks of. Gallup, the research firm, recently did a meta-analysis across 199 studies covering 152 organizations, 44 industries, and 26 countries. It showed that high employee engagement brings an uplift of every business performance number. Profitability up 16%, Productivity up 18%, customer loyalty up 12% and quality up an incredible 60%. I wrote about that a few years back, here, in the piece called People are Not Cogs.
Seeing this talk has me thinking and asking:
How do you create your own pride, and motivation at work? Or, with your kids?
Are they one and the same, or different and how?
What is it you measure this value creation by?
Many times over the last few years — since I have moved from running a company to having a portfolio career — I wonder how to measure “success”. I can believe I am purpose aligned but still feel unclear if “success” is happening because I lack a “hard” metric. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. The reason many of us struggle with the meaning / ownership / pride thing is because it’s hard to measure. Which is why I think many cling to the paycheck as a proxy for value creation measurement.
What do you think? What say you on this thread of how we measure fulfillment at work?