Employee Motivation Gone Wrong

Neuroscience experts, practitioners, research, and methods for making brain-friendly organizations and healthy individuals. Listen to Mind Your Noodles!

This is the 67th episode of the Mind Your Noodles podcast. In this episode, Tripp discusses a Harvard Business Review article filled with academic theory. Contact me via email at tripp@the95method.com if you are a new or aspiring executive for discounts to The 95 Method executive education system.


Here are some resources mentioned in this episode:


[00:00:06] Mind Your Noodles Podcast – Episode 67
[00:00:28] Episode 67 – Employee Motivation Gone Wrong
[00:01:15] The Problem with Universities
[00:02:51] Four Emotional Drives
[00:06:50] Theory vs. Reality
[00:08:11] Rewards
[00:09:32] RBS
[00:10:37] Individual vs System
[00:15:00] The Problem with Universities and Academics


Tripp Babbitt: [00:00:06] Take care of the brains that take care of you with a Mind Your Noodles podcast keep you up to date on the latest neuroscience research and practices to keep your brain healthy and strategies to help your organization brain friendly.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:00:28] This is episode 67 of the Mind Your Noodles podcast, and this week I want to talk about a and well, it’s a Harvard Business Review article and it’s titled Employee Motivation A Powerful New Model. And when I saw this, I thought, gee, this is great. We’ve got a powerful new model coming out of the Harvard Business Review. It’s talking about employee motivation. And when I read the first three or four paragraphs that had neuroscience in it talked about synthetic thinking. It talked about research. And I thought, this is it. This these this must be a really great article.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:01:15] Soon to be disappointed. The authors of this particular article all seem to be based in what I call theory. And this is one of the things that I really have issues with coming out of universities, especially institutions like Harvard, because all these people writing about how your organization should be run are people that have never run an organization or been part of an organization. They’ve studied organizations, and that’s not good enough, in my opinion. You have got to got to have gotten your self in a position in an organization where you can actually see how change happens in organizations improvement and things of that sort. Theory is theory. How it plays out in your organization is going to vary. It’s going to be different. And so right off the bat, I have some issues with the authors of this, because I’ll be honest with you, they just don’t get it because they they’re they’re theoretical thinkers.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:02:22] They’ve spent their life in academia and not in real world transformations of organizations. And I’m not trying to prop myself up in as much as it’s just an observation that I’ve seen over and over where, oh, we got these people from Harvard coming in or we got these people from, you know, some business school coming in. And they’re going to be awesome because they’re gonna give us lots of new theory. Well, theory is one thing.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:02:51] An actual reality is completely another thing. And that’s why you have to have a method in your organization to go through, understand what works and what doesn’t work for your particular system. So just kind of diving into this particular article from neuroscience, they came up with what they have are for emotional drives and they’ve written a book about this. I’ve mentioned the book. I’m going to put a link to it because I’m so frustrated with what they’ve written. But it’s called Driven How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices. And these four drives that they talk about are a choir, which is obtain scarce goods, including tangibles such as social status. And some of these will be familiar to you from from this podcast. Bond form, connections with individuals and groups, comprehend, satisfy our curiosity and master the world around us and defend, protect against external threats and promote justice. These drives underfoot, in their opinion, these drives underlie everything that we do now.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:04:05] These are the same types of things that I’ve talked about in my podcast, about personal standing, about social, about clarity and clear future and being equitable and fair and doing something for the greater good, although they don’t really talk about greater good very much in this particular article. So as I’m going through this, sorry, you’ll hear Page’s turn as I go through it. So so talking about these drives.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:04:37] It’s in essence, they’re talking about your standing, your social standing. So they’re just using different words for some of the same neuroscience that others have done. David Rock is one that whose original works I read and I’ve been upfront about that, that he’s some of the work now. Paul Zak doesn’t Dr. Paul Zak, my one of my early interviews doesn’t care much for David Rock. But, hey, he did. He cites a lot of good research. He’s done none of it that I know of. But he’s he’s compiled it in such a way that we can digest it. So the second thing is the drive, the bond here again, we’re talking about social, about being connect the connectedness that we need. Remember, I talked about Maslow’s hierarchy. He and that, I believe the social needs to be the fundamental, you know, before some of the the the needs like food and things of that sort. Somebody’s got to care for you. They’ve got to get you that food and do things. So the social to me is the base level of Maslow’s hierarchy, if if it were to be redone.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:05:49] The drive to comprehend this to me gets to what I talk about in Claire clarity about having a clear future, about what’s going to happen and driving towards additional knowledge drive to defend. We’re talking about a combination. Thanks for talking about when you talk about that drive. What I’m reading from these folks is in this article is we’re talking about social standing. We’re talking about fairness.And those are the things that, you know, when I got out this article, I wasn’t too upset.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:06:22] But basically, they start going into as Citris do they build taking a look at Home Depot, Bob Nardelli and some of the work he did there. Oh, he only focused on a acquire. He didn’t pay attention to bond, comprehend and defend. Well, that you know, when you’re looking at case studies, that’s all you can do.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:06:50] It doesn’t help anybody. That’s the thing that kills me about. Some of the the research that’s done is that they you know, they do it and then say, OK, we’ll hear these four drives. Let’s see how they played out in this organization. Tells you nothing to help you as an organization. You’ve got to take the theories. I’m perfectly OK with taking a theory and see how it works in your organization, but you better have a method to be able to do that. You can’t just copy what’s going on by what they’re saying from these four drives and get any improvement in an organization. So this this is just it’s so academia. And it’s one of the reasons why building this executive education program are a built to said executive education program, because it drives me nuts that we have all this theory out there and people say, well, this should happen. And then they go into organization. If they do and they destroy it because you’re not looking at how it interacts with your system, your group of customers, your people, your culture, if you will.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:07:58] And I’m not a big fan of the use of culture, but that’s what I think. So here’s what they put down as the organizational levers are levers of motivation, the reward system.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:08:11] Of course, we run into this all the time. And that is first of all, I’ve said it over and over again. And it’s in the executive education program and throughout this podcast is Your Brain Loves Rewards. It just does. It’s one of the things out there that you put. Your brain likes to get rewards and the dopamine it emits in your body. You love to get those rewards, but they don’t always cause the right behavior within your organization. So if you don’t understand the customer lines and don’t understand how you think about rewards, then none of these things will will will work.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:08:50] And some of the things they put in here, you know, does it effectively does your word system effectively discriminate between good and bad, good and bad performers? Now, they mentioned synthetic thinking or systems thinking at the beginning, but here now they’re just talking about individual performers and how well they perform. And can we sort through the good and the bad? Completely ignoring the system. The system is what we need to improve. Always going to have people on the high end and the low end of any bell curve of people and your organization always. And the objective should be to shift the whole curve and not sort through the good and the bad.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:09:32] And this one gets rewarded. And this one doesn’t that that is completely ridiculous. And they use an example of a Royal Bank of Scotland or RBS. Yes. You know, says it was dominated by politics and status and employee tenure. So they. So RDBMS introduced a new system. I don’t think these academics had anything to do with the new system, but they may have that held managers responsible for specific goals and rewarded good performance over average performance.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:10:04] How does this get rid of any of the politics within an organization? Numbers are manipulated. False numbers. We get people gaming the system. This creates more politics. And yet these people are claiming that, you know, if this new system makes things much better. And, you know, we’re recognizing individual achievement. And in in this are talking about also Sunoco, manufacturer of packaging for industrial and consumer goods.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:10:37] I remember Sunoco is a gas station, but anyway.They enter instituted pay for performance system based on individual and group group metrics. Completely, again, ignores the system that’s out there. Again, you have to be the ones that go through your organization. We gotta have a method to know whether these theories are the right thing for your organization. This is all that the executive education program is about, is teaching you a method to sort through some of this stuff and say, does this does this make any sense for my organization or not? And then this is this is the killer. So the next thing to talk about is culture. And they’re talking about, OK. So we we’ve put in this pay for performance system, which pits people against each other within the organization. And now they’re talking about the need in their culture to be able to bond. You got to bond with each other. Well, if you’re competing against somebody for bonuses, for ranking within your organization for a better performance appraisal, how are you going to get collaboration within your organization? How does that happen? It doesn’t happen. That’s the that’s the thing. These things counter each other. And in every organization that I’ve seen that has these things going on, oh, we got to build a better culture. But you have all of these things like pay for for poor, for performance and ranking and end bonuses. And all this promotes short term thinking. This promotes competition as post collaboration with our organizations. But you know what? I see it everywhere in most organizations. It doesn’t help that I know what has to happen is those people and within the organization that have to want to change because they see that it’s making their or their system worse, not only for the employees, but for the customers that are out there. We talk in terms of job design, individual job design. This has nothing to do with synthetic thinking. This has nothing to do with a system design that gives people a much better opportunity to improve their organization.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:12:58] When you are making the whole system better, you know, it’s famous W. Edwards Deming quote, I do the Deming Institute podcast is, you know, you put a good person and in a bad system, the system is going to win every time. And it does. It’s just the way that things happen. See, what if I got other notes here?

Tripp Babbitt: [00:13:24] It says company success in fulfilling the drive to bond, but also challenged employees think more broadly about how they can contribute to making a difference for coworkers, customers, investors. If you’re competing for bonuses, you’re not going to be cooperating with any of those groups because it’s all about you in this system that they’re identifying as good is all about individual performance. So, you know, it was kind of surprising to me. Oh, I shouldn’t be surprised because different I’m sure lecturers and academics, you know, write articles like this for. But when I interviewed Joshua Mok, who is the chief product innovation officer for the Harvard Business Review, this guy is very much a Deming guy. He understands that these things could be bad for your system.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:14:18] So but he doesn’t have any editorial influence. Well, I’m sure he has some influence. But, you know, when you have the academics from that school writing an article is probably not going to be able to get you to veto it.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:14:36] Performance management, resource allocation process, fair, trustworthy and transparent processes for performance management and resource allocation. Help to meet people’s drive to defend. You know, it’s just.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:14:51] Hey, I get frustrated when I read articles like this, folks. I mean, it’s just. Yeah. Yeah.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:15:00] The problem in universities. The problem with what organizations are reading the Harvard Business Review or any place else is because it’s based in theory. It goes out it looks at a case study and then becomes confirmation bias from a standpoint of people are saying, oh, they’re doing it this particular way. And that must support my four drives or whatever theory that academics have. You have to have practical application in in using these things and open eyes to know. You must have a method in order to discern what’s going to help your organization and what’s not. And if you’re just taking stuff like this and saying, oh, let’s try this type of thing, what does that mean and how will you know whether things are whether things are getting better or not? Do you you have a system in place. Have you looked through the customer lens? Have you looked through your thinking lens? Because there’s a lot of the stuff is changing the way that you think about things. And I don’t see anything wrong with that because their theory theories, even the ones I’m promoting, are theories, what I call theories at work and to try different things is good. And I’m actually an advocate of trying a lot of different things. But on a small scale, it’s when organizations go out and tried to do things on a large scale, that things become problematic within that organization. So, you know, I don’t often Americans first time that I can think of, they’ve taken just one article like this from Harvard Business Review, but it’s such a respected publication. I think somebody ought to be a critical thinking about the kind of crap that that’s been written in here, because it’s so academic from the standpoint of theory and then case study.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:16:54] And none of that will work for your organization unless you have your eyes wide open about how these how this kind of copying, this kind of theoretical move being a good thing for your particular organization. So that’s what I wanted to discuss this week and the executive education program I’ve I’ve released on a small scale to groups of people coming along at a launch team put together that are giving me some feedback on how to make this better, maybe even how to promote it better, because I’m compared to Harvard Business Review, I’m moral to a known, but I have much better methods. I have a much better system than what this stuff that I’m reading in it. And so hopefully I can get better at getting the message out, you know, Demming Institute podcasts. Yeah, we’ve had anywhere from 15 to 50 thousand people every month that listen to it. And we’ve got a good following on this particular podcast, too. So that’s it for this week. I hope you learned something. And you can kind of see. You’ll understand some of my biases and hopefully you understand that my biases come from actually working with organizations and making changes within them. And some of the crazy stuff that goes on with people reading an article and all sudden they’re gonna change their horror organization based on it without thinking in terms of pivoting or scrapping or whatever. It’s kind of for, you know, forge ahead with a bet, sometimes bad theory and copying in accordance with theory and case study.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:18:47] That’s that’s a problem. It really is a problem in organizations and universities continue to propagate this stuff that to me, they’re dinosaurs.

Tripp Babbitt: [00:19:05] The ninety five method executive education program is being released on a limited basis to aspiring and new executives for a price of three hundred dollars. You will learn during the course of this education program how to look through the customer lens, how to look through your thinking lens and then reconcile these two things so that you can look at almost any theory. That comes from academia or articles or. Whatever innovation that you may come up with or idea that you come up with and help you discern whether it’s the right thing for your organization as well as supply you with some theories that have worked within other organizations, keeping your eyes open not to copy, but to make your organization better. So you can learn more about this education program by contacting me at Tripp@the95method.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get the Effective Executive Starter KitGet It Now!