Posts tagged “motivation”

Serving Up Carrots

A very small social experiment, more something to reflect on rather than proof of anything.

The Petite Syrah café in the Riviera city of Nice, has implemented a new pricing scheme. “A coffee” will set you back €7, according to the sign, while “a coffee please” is a little more affordable, at €4.25. If you want keep your expenses down, and stay friends with your local barista, however, the best option is “Hello, a coffee please,” which will only cost you €1.40.

Manager of the Petite Syrah, Fabrice Pepino, told The Local: “It started as a joke because at lunchtime people would come in very stressed and were sometimes rude to us when they ordered a coffee. Although Pepino admits he’s never actually had to enforce the price scheme, he says he has noticed a difference in his customers’ behaviour. “Most of my customers are regulars and they just see the funny side and exaggerate their politeness,” he said, adding “They started calling me ‘your greatness’ when they saw the sign. But people are more relaxed now, and they’re smiling more. That’s the most important thing.”

The framing here is important: there’s a reward for the behavior the business wants. It’s not a punishment for failing to adhere to the rules (e.g., surcharge for being a dickhead: $3.00) – even though it’s the same thing economically, behaviorally it’s entirely different. It’s the carrot versus the stick.

As well, the outcome is less about adherence to the rules and more about the increased mindfulness about a detail of the interaction. We’d need to come back and see what happens after the regulars attenuate to this change, but the empowerment that the rules produce as a consequence is quite enticing.

Also see previously: A silly (?) coffee pricing scheme at Tim Hortons.

Creativity is a practice (not a perfect)

Being creative ain’t always pretty and it’s rarely easy. Creativity is a practice that brings out the best and worst of us. The articles below have me pondering the shadow side of creative pursuit, how to stay motivated through the highs and lows, and which of these creative calisthenics I should try first.

How Creativity Connects with Immorality [Scientific American] – Citing a number of studies that link creativity to unethical behavior by employees, this article suggests that there is a dark side to creativity. This comes as no surprise to me. The internal tension that pits notions of “accepted” against “unheard of” is one of the most fundamental and key ingredients in creative production. Creative thinking is frequently predicated on a willingness to question the norms and accepted rules. In fact, if you want to practice your divergent thinking a bit today, I invite you to think of a rule at work (i.e. thou shalt not take the sticky notes home) and come up with ten, make that twenty, ways around it.

The authors hypothesized that it is creativity which causes unethical behavior by allowing people the means to justify their misdeeds, but it is hard to say for certain whether this is correct given the correlational nature of the study. It could just as easily be true, after all, that unethical behavior leads people to be more creative, or that there is something else which causes both creativity and dishonesty, such as intelligence.

What Doesn’t Motivate Creativity Can Kill It [Harvard Business Review] – I have a serious creativity crush on Teresa Amabile and particularly value her research contributions in the area of creativity and business. Here she emphasizes the importance of intrinsic motivation for fostering creativity within the organization and the delicate balancing act required when leaders utilize goals, evaluation, reward, and pressure to fuel innovation.

In the end, it’s level, form, and meaning of the motivator that makes for that perfect balance. Being told to do a tough job in a particular way, with no tolerance of failure, little expectation of recognition for success, and extreme, arbitrary time pressure, can kill anyone’s creativity motivation. But being given the same job, in a positive atmosphere where false starts are examined constructively and success is recognized, can drive creativity – and innovation – forward.

The articles above reminded me of an RSA animation for a talk given by Daniel Pink about how intrinsic motivation functions. I love it for both medium (graphic animation) and message (rewards come from within when you do what you love). If you are looking to amplify your creative practice, start with what you love to do already. And then do more of that.

Coarse Art: A 30-day experiment [Scree] – Definitions of creative thinking often refer to the four key skills of originality, flexibility, fluency and elaboration. Fluency is all about quantity- generating as many ideas as possible. Go. Go. Go. The more the merrier! My friend Emily, an Innovation Catalyst at a global corporation, recently undertook a month-long experiment in pursuit of creative fluency by committing to something she calls Coarse Art. Thirty days of making something, quickly, every single morning. No judgment, no reasons, no justifications. She just made something every day, celebrated the practice of it and reflected on all the struggles that this seemingly simple and deceptively challenging practice raised. You can find her article (and her art) on page 38. And if you are looking to develop your own creative fluency, it’s pretty simple. Commit to creating something (i.e. words, poems, assemblage, song, painting, culinary delight) everyday for 30 days in a row. And be sure to celebrate every single day, no matter what.

We readily celebrate the brilliance of a child’s first artistic experiments, noting the highly abstract elements and excitement inherent within their expression, though as grownups we suffer from massive celebration delay.

‘Inspiration is 80% Mental, 40% Physical’: Your Secrets of Creativity [The Atlantic] – Last month Jared Keller asked Atlantic readers how they come up with their best ideas. This article is filled with responses. It is like a pinata of productivity exploded into a shower of suggestions for generating new ideas. Take a look, there is something for everyone here. You will likely find at least one suggestion that resonates with you and inspires you to try a new way to get your creative juices flowing.

Do not silo your brain. I find myself at my most creative when I am connecting disparate things. How should I connect this blog post about reality television with a Congressional Budget Office white paper on home foreclosures? I am envious of designers who draw inspiration from a variety of sources: photography, textile patterns,medieval architecture, 1990s Geocities sites and the like. Inspiration needs room to breathe. I create this space by combining what I am working on with what I like.

The Dog Days Are Over


Warning, Portland, OR, December 2010

Last week I stopped at a Safeway store in Portland, OR. On my way to the bathroom, I passed through a backstage area with the various HR notices, schedules, and so on. And then, I see this sign, depicting a crazy-eyed dog, and the exhortation: Warning – A customer who wants a sample looks like this. Don’t Forget The Selling Suggestion.

I’m astounded that Safeway would put this sign where customers can see it. I would hope that companies wouldn’t be using anti-customer imagery as motivational posters, but if they are, I would expect that they wouldn’t put it where customers can see it.

Really, Safeway? You think so little of us that you don’t even care if we know how little you think of us?

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Morphed photos help dieters visualize a thinner self – ThinnerView is a service that shows dieters how they'll look if they achieve their goals for losing weight. Customers begin by uploading a photo of themselves at their current weight. From there, ThinnerView hand-alters the image based on the customer's requirements, bone structure and body shape to render the most realistic results possible—it does not use simple, generic slimming software. Within two to three working days, the customer can download their "after" image, share it with others or post it on their Facebook page. $14.99 for the first image

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The Nike Experiment: How the Shoe Giant Unleashed the Power of Personal Metrics – Using a flood of new tools and technologies, each of us now has the ability to collect granular information about our lives—what we eat, how much we sleep, when our mood changes.
    Not only can we collect that data, we can analyze it, looking for patterns, information that might help us change both the quality and the length of our lives. We can live longer and better by applying, on a personal scale, the same quantitative mindset that powers Google and medical research. Call it Living by Numbers—the ability to gather and analyze data about yourself, setting up a feedback loop that we can use to upgrade our lives, from better health to better habits to better performance.
    Nike has discovered that there's a magic number for a Nike+ user: 5. If someone uploads only a couple of runs to the site, they might just be trying it out. But once they hit 5 runs, they're massively more likely to keep running and uploading data. At 5 runs, they've gotten hooked on what their data tells them.
  • To Sleep, Perchance to Analyze Data: David Pogue on the Zeo sleep monitoring system – Just watching the Zeo track your sleep cycles doesn’t do anything to help you sleep better. Plotting your statistics on the Web doesn’t help, either.

    But the funny thing is, you do wind up getting better sleep — because of what I call the Personal Trainer Phenomenon. People who hire a personal trainer at the gym wind up attending more workouts than people who are just members. Why? Because after spending that much money and effort, you take the whole thing much more seriously.

    In the same way, the Zeo winds up focusing you so much on sleep that you wind up making some of the lifestyle changes that you could have made on your own, but didn’t. (“Otherwise,” a little voice in your head keeps arguing, “you’ve thrown away $400.”)

    That’s the punch line: that in the end, the Zeo does make you a better sleeper. Not through sleep science — but through psychology.

  • Baechtold's Best photo series – While they are framed as travel guides, they are really more visual anthropology. A range of topics and places captured and presented in a compelling and simple fashion, illustrating similarities and differences between people, artifacts, and the like.
  • It's girls-only at Fresno State engineering camp – This is the first year for the girls-only engineering camp. Its goal is to increase the number of female engineering majors at Fresno State, which lags behind the national average in graduating female engineers. Nationwide, about 20% of engineering graduates are women. 20 years ago the national average was 25%. At Fresno State, only 13% of engineering graduates are women.

    Jenkins said he hopes the camp will convince girls "who might not have thought about it" that engineering is fun, and entice them to major in engineering.
    (via @KathySierra)

  • Selling Tampax With Male Menstruation – This campaign, by Tampax, is in the form of a story featuring blog entries and short videos. The story is about a 16-year-old boy named Zack who suddenly wakes up with “girl parts.” He goes on to narrate what it’s like including, of course, his experience of menstruation and what a big help Tampax tampons were.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Mexican Government Runs A Contest To Expose The Hellish Depths Of Bureaucracy – "Ms. Pardo said she thought the competition would not by itself guarantee change. But she said it helped not only to highlight the problem, but also encouraged Mexicans to speak out to try to force change, rather than just accepting the status quo. “Chileans don’t let this happen to them,” she said."

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