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A ten-minute piece on Motivation, by Dan Pink, author of Drive (with… - Zer Netmouse
May 31st, 2010
10:47 am

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A ten-minute piece on Motivation, by Dan Pink, author of Drive (with a nod to Tobias Buckell, who just posted about this).



I find I'm unsurprised by these findings. This is what was found when Wikipedia studied why people participate in it, and why we identified the fact that having your work go away there with no notification to you is an active disincentive for people to keep doing it. People want to feel like their work has purpose, and that their mastery is recognizable, if not recognized. Having an authoritarian structure that stifles creativity there has hurt the project, because people want to be creative as they build mastery and serve a purpose. If good work is casually destroyed because someone thought it was off-topic or was insufficiently encyclopedic for wikipedia, people don't stick around to do more of it.

In the middle there, he talks about how the key point with paying people is that you need to pay them enough to take the question of money off the table. Beyond that, paying people more leads to worse performance.

How much do you think you would need to get paid to take the question of money off the table?

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From:dd_b
Date:May 31st, 2010 03:30 pm (UTC)
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To take the question of money "off the table" meaning I wouldn't have to worry about it anymore? Hmmmm; probably around $140,000. Or 1/3 of that, if everybody was playing.
From:nicegeek
Date:May 31st, 2010 03:46 pm (UTC)
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Interesting. I'm curious about the math behind this number, if you wouldn't mind sharing.
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From:dd_b
Date:May 31st, 2010 04:13 pm (UTC)
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I'm currently most of the support for three adults. And I'm not really sure I understand the question properly. At our current (lower) income, we're recovering slowly from some earlier problems and behind on preparing for future issues, so I made a guess on how much more would straighten things out.
From:nicegeek
Date:May 31st, 2010 04:19 pm (UTC)
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Okay, so that number is for overcoming current demands, not for providing financial independence going forward. I was just trying to figure out the order-of-magnitude difference between your number and the one I gave below.
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From:dd_b
Date:May 31st, 2010 04:57 pm (UTC)
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And definitely DOES include the cost of primary residence, car, etc.
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From:dd_b
Date:May 31st, 2010 04:14 pm (UTC)
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Oh, and that's a per year figure.
From:nicegeek
Date:May 31st, 2010 03:44 pm (UTC)
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How much do you think you would need to get paid to take the question of money off the table?

I don't think this is really a question of pay, but a question of wealth. Most people, I think, have the same basic financial goal: To accumulate enough wealth that the physical needs of themselves and their loved ones are met, and to feel secure that those needs will continue to be met for the foreseeable future. Until they've accumulated that much wealth, the answer to "How much do you want to get paid?" is "As much as I can get."

How much wealth is that? Well, it depends on what the person's definition of the "foreseeable future" is, and I suspect that that length of time probably varies a lot between people. Some people might measure that in months, or a few years. But if the person wants to plan for an indefinitely long future (my own preference) it's got to be enough so that the investment returns can provide a stable yield high enough to live on comfortably. IMHO, that's currently somewhere between $1M-$2M/person.
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From:dd_b
Date:May 31st, 2010 04:15 pm (UTC)
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Last time I looked, $1M was totally inadequate -- you have to plow back enough money to increase the capital to keep up with inflation, remember; otherwise, you've living on a decreasing income.
From:nicegeek
Date:May 31st, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
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$1M would be the lower bound; it assumes about a 3% inflation-adjusted ROI, to supply $30k/year in living expenses. That may be a little aggressive, but I don't think it's unreasonable for a single person over a long timeframe. I'm also not counting the cost of a primary residence in the $1M, and a person with a chronic health condition would definitely not be able to make it on that much.

That said, I initially arrived at these numbers in 2000, so to properly inflation-adjust them, they should probably be increased by about 20%.
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From:netmouse
Date:June 2nd, 2010 04:13 pm (UTC)
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Actually, I would guess that a lot of people haven't even approached thinking about accumulating wealth. Many people also have a different level of priority on or belief in the future, so, no, their answer is not "as much as I can get."

That's certainly not my answer, anyway.

But your response points to a difference between a base assumption of a one-time payment and a base assumption of an ongoing paycheck. I was thinking of it as an ongoing, dependable paycheck for the foreseeable future.
From:nicegeek
Date:June 2nd, 2010 06:43 pm (UTC)
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Many people also have a different level of priority on or belief in the future, so, no, their answer is not "as much as I can get."

Unless the person has a terminal disease, I have some problems with this, particularly if the person is counting on some kind of safety net. The future will happen. In a country with social safety nets, someone who lives without a care for the future is essentially making a choice to have someone else's taxes pay for their own frivolity.

But your response points to a difference between a base assumption of a one-time payment and a base assumption of an ongoing paycheck. I was thinking of it as an ongoing, dependable paycheck for the foreseeable future.

That's true; I don't think it's a good idea for anyone to assume that they'll ever get an "ongoing, dependable paycheck". The world isn't that predictable. Times change, economies shift, technologies come and go, along with the demand for the skillsets to support them.

Consequently, I think that the existence of a social safety net imposes two responsibilities on everyone, that they should carry out to the best of their ability:

- To continually learn and adapt their skills so that they remain useful.

- To live frugally during good times, putting aside as much wealth as possible for the bad times, to minimize the drain on those safety nets.

Some people have disabilities or other circumstances that force them to draw on the safety net. That's fine...that's what it's for. But those who can reasonably avoid it have an ethical obligation to do so, IMHO.
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From:rose_lemberg
Date:May 31st, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC)
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Exactly! This is why universities get away with not paying professors that much money. It's all there: mastery, purpose, relative independence... I would, however, like to earn about 30k more; that would be a fair compensation for the amount of work I am doing.
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From:adina_atl
Date:May 31st, 2010 05:05 pm (UTC)
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How much? About as much as I'm currently making, actually, or even rather less.

I've read some of the studies that (I think) the presentation was referring to, however, and my take on them was not that higher pay leads to worse performance, but rather that the possibility of higher pay leads to worse performance. It's the anticipation of large sums of money and the uncertainty about whether you'll get it that is distracting and leads to lower performance. A steady paycheck, no matter how high, is neither an incentive for greater work nor a distraction from your current work. It's just something that shows up at the end of the pay period, not something that you either daydream or worry about. IMHO and in my personal experience.
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From:lostcarpark
Date:May 31st, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC)
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This actually makes a lot of sense to me. A couple of years ago I was in a situation where I could be earning quite substantial bonuses. I had some problems in my work and personal life, and I think that the possibility of affecting my bonus was something that I think affected me subconsciously, and looking back was a factor in my worsening performance.

Nowadays there's no bonus on the table, and I do find I feel liberated as a result. Poorer but liberated.

But yeah, it's the work I do outside work outside work that gives me the autonomy and other stuff.
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From:skylarker
Date:May 31st, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the link! Fascinating.

A few years ago I actually got enough of a bequest from an uncle's estate that I could live without a day job for a couple years. (Stretching it out as much as I could). I found that I could cover my living expenses (and have some fun) for about $2000 a month - and that while I goofed off some, I also got very focused on writing and art projects that were neglected while my time was all sucked up by day jobs.
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From:spacecrab
Date:May 31st, 2010 07:12 pm (UTC)
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I'm not sure it works this way, for me, as far as setting a threshold for money being off the table.

I've always been interested in getting paid as much as I can for any writing projects I undertake. But if the pay rate turns out to be nothing (or a token sum), it doesn't discourage me from wanting to write about stuff that I'm interested in. The way that payment rates limit me is that low or non-existing rates stop me from spending as much time writing the stuff that I would write, anyway -- whatever the pay rate for that stuff happens to be.

Ten or fifteen years ago, I could get paid more than a living wage to geek out with computers, explore the nooks and crannies of hardware and software and write about my findings in books, magazine articles, and on websites. So I did that. There was a high market demand and pay rate for magazine and web pieces on more generic aspects of personal computing. But I was just as likely to pitch and take on an assignment for 10 cents a word on something geekier that really intrigued me. I wrote reviews for the New York Review of Science Fiction for only token payment, because I thought it was the place to be -- a focal point of interest in science fiction. The better-paying work covered me to take on the assignments at lower rates.

Now, there's no higher-paying market in computer journalism that's accessible to me. I still write geeky stuff on computer operating systems and reviews of science fiction and graphic novels for token payments -- because a) I'm interested in the exercise of thinking about those subjects and expressing myself and b) I'm under the impression that the publication points are reasonably high-traffic focal points.

I have to earn my living, now, through non-freelance writing work: salaried IT support and document production for a software company, and instruction/course design for a vocational college. (I did those things ten or fifteen years ago, too, but I didn't have to spend most of my work time doing them.) I still get to do a little bit of paid writing in these jobs -- but I'm no longer my own master on choosing content and setting my own production rate.

Edited at 2010-05-31 09:04 pm (UTC)
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From:grimfaire
Date:May 31st, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
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It depends on the definition of money...

and I'm serious...if all you're looking at is the amount of dollar bills supplied...that number is about 120k/yr...

but if I'm supplied with a lot of things... like housing, transportation and maid service... that drops down to like 20k/yr....

certain things I really have a hard time doing and other things I actually can't... so if I have to do them or track someone down and hire them it costs a lot more than if it is supplied...

put me in a room and give me problems to work with... push food and books under the door daily and I'd be a happy camper
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From:madtechie2718
Date:June 1st, 2010 12:16 pm (UTC)
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Interesting! For me, I'd guess a bit more than now, say $150K per year. That would recompense me for the extra hours beyond my contracted time that I think necessary to do certain aspects of my job to the standard that I'd like.

Of course, I no longer have a mortgage around my neck and live in a country where healthcare is 'free', but gas costs around $8 per gallon.

Another aspect is relative age, I'd think - close to retirement and you'd need to focus on maximising income - almost to the exclusion of all else - to provide for retirement. Earlier in life and you can 'afford' (both financially and in available time' to view things differently.
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From:madtechie2718
Date:June 1st, 2010 12:27 pm (UTC)
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By chance, the next item I looked at after this was here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8711216.stm

It touches on motivation in a rather different way; so how much would you need to get in order to stay motivated for 520 days?
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