Responsible Management Education

Book Review of Dan Ariely’s “Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations”

payoff-9781501120046_hr

ISBN: 1501120042 (ISBN13: 9781501120046)

Motivation is a topic of great interest to behaviour and organizational scientists who are generally looking for ways to improve performance and productivity. The subtitle of the book “Payoff” attracted my attention, whetting my curiosity with the promise of the hidden logic behind motivations. ‘Payoff’ is an engaging melange of research findings with personal stories and experiences, blended into an interesting read as much for a lay person as for a researcher. Catchy chapter headers also added to the appeal.

Dan begins with a dictionary definition of motivation and how it is a significant part of all aspects of our lives – personal and professional. In the author’s own words “This book explores the jungle of motivation’s true nature, as well as our blindness to its strangeness and complexity”. His introduction talks about an interesting theory that motivation is a sum of a number of factors suggesting the equation:

Motivation = Money + Achievement + Happiness + Purpose + A Sense of Progress + Retirement Security + Caring About Others + Your Legacy + Status + Number of Young Kids at Home2 + Pride + E + P + X + [All kinds of other elements]. He presents the complexity of the concept of motivation and how we tend to attribute it to different factors before a project and during the project. He also points out that often we become aware of the various factors affecting our motivation levels only after the negative effects are evident.

He then goes on to describe an experience that made him realise that what pushed him to come out of a tragic incident was the strong need to conquer a feeling of helplessness. The need to “reclaim even a tiny modicum of control over his life” was the motivation to endure the pain and to get better. With these words the author brings out the significance of experiencing meaning in life as against living an easy life.

Dan cites several interesting studies that he and his colleagues have conducted where performance of research participants as well as actual factory employees went up much more significantly when they were able to find meaning in their work than when their work was simply rewarded with monetary returns. In fact his research points to the fact that monetary rewards actually hampered rather than helped productivity whereas a simple word of acknowledgement from the superior worked wonders.

Through four easy to read chapters, Dan enlightens the readers on what kills motivation, how joy and finding meaning in work are significant, that money is a wrongly over-rated motivator and how often the need for finding meaning unconsciously extends to encompass even the afterlife. Dan concludes with the answer to the ultimate question alluding to the book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Expressed in a light and humorous language, while the book reiterates what several other researchers have found in recent years, it also encourages the reader to ponder some of the simple yet often ignored aspects of leadership and motivation. It is a small book, quick to read and packed with wisdom.

Workforce Diversity and Organizational Culture

Organizational Culture, as conceptualized by Schein, can be understood as a layered phenomenon with the surface level artefacts visible in an organization as the topmost layer, the espoused values that fuel those just underneath and most importantly the assumptions and beliefs that underlie the above two layers. Culture is the invisible yet powerful force that drives morale, engagement and performance. Needless to say that the culture of an organization comes from its people and is both top-down as well as bottom-up, resulting from the numerous interactions (or the lack thereof) among its people. The diversity in the workforce is therefore, a strong influence sculpting the culture of organizations of today.

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Experts are of the opinion that in the glocal world that we live in today, diversity is the key to maximize organizational effectiveness. But what does this diversity really refer to? Is it the variety or multiplicity of demographic features that characterize a company’s workforce, in terms of race, gender, culture, religion, national origin, handicap, sexual orientation and age? Or are we referring to the more intrinsic differences that exist between individuals that surpass the group level differences? Whatever the definition may be, it is true that in any workplace today, we are surrounded by people who often think and work differently. It begins with how people perceive themselves and others and the variations therein, which directly influence people’s interactions and communication within the organization.

The challenge for organizations really is to manage this workforce diversity to benefit from it, to make it advantageous. It is ‘Easier said than done!’

What exactly are these advantages that researches keep talking about?

There are several benefits for an organization that embraces diversity in its culture:

  • Increased adaptability – Organizations employing a diverse workforce can supply a greater variety of solutions to problems that arise on a day-to-day basis. Employees from diverse backgrounds bring individual talents and experiences in suggesting ideas that are flexible in adapting to fluctuating markets and customer demands.
  • Broader service range – A diverse collection of skills and experiences (e.g. languages, cultural understanding) allows a company to provide service to customers on a global basis. IBM is one organization that created several minority task forces focusing on groups such as women and Native Americans. In the ensuing years these task forces expanded IBM’s multicultural markets growing from $10 million to $300 million in revenue in just 3 years.
  • Greater Creativity – A diverse workforce that feels comfortable communicating varying points of view provides a larger pool of ideas and experiences. The organization can draw from that pool to meet business strategy needs and the needs of customers more effectively.

All of these benefits have a clear impact on the bottom-line of a company.

Challenges of Diversity in the workplace

While the benefits of diversity are evident, this path is not devoid of challenges for the organization.

  • Unconscious bias is one of the most significant barriers for an organization on the path to embracing diversity. Simply because it is unconscious makes it all the more challenging to overcome. While each individual comes with their own set of unconscious biases, there are some that are common such as those stemming from stereotypes related to women and people from certain cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
  • Communication is another important challenge in organizations often resulting from basic differences in the style of communication as well as different meanings associated with non-verbal signals. For example, high-context cultures such as India, Japan and China, rely on implicit communication whereas low context cultures such as USA rely largely on explicit verbal communication. Such differences, when not understood, often lead to miscommunication among teams/employees.
  • Resistance to change – Any change is often met with resistance, it is a human tendency. There are employees who refuse to accept the fact that the social and cultural makeup of their workplace is changing. The “we’ve always done it this way” mentality sometimes silences new ideas and inhibits progress.
  • Implementation of diversity in the workplace policies –This can be an overriding challenge to all diversity advocates. Policy level change marks the beginning which then needs to be implemented across the organization. It is important to recognize and accommodate at the policy level cultural and religious holidays, differing modes of dressing, dietary restrictions and needs of individuals with disabilities.

All the above challenges, while real, can be overcome by building awareness and skills through sensitization training programmes and coaching sessions across all levels. Most importantly the top management, the leaders need to be good role models, displaying their support for diversity, respecting people from all backgrounds equally.

Founder’s Day Celebrations @Banyan Tree School, Lodhi Road

The air was filled with joy and nostalgia as the students of Banyan Tree School and members of the IILM family came together to celebrate the 92nd birth anniversary of Dr. Kulwant Rai, the founder and chairperson emeritus of the institutions. Founder’s day 2016 was celebrated with much enthusiasm in the school. The day began with a school assembly where the Head Boy and the Head Girl shared the vision of Dr. Kulwant Rai with the students. Tribute was paid through a Saraswati Vandana and the shloka chanting. The students were given a chocolate each while returning to their classrooms. To add fun and excitement to the day, Spectrum was organised where each child participated in an activity of his/her interest and showcased their talent.

A special programme was organised in the auditorium. Smt. Nimmi Kanwar was the guest of honour. The programme started with the lighting of the lamp accompanied with shloka invoking the blessings of the Almighty.

Mrs Ranjana Negi, Principal Banyan Tree School, Lodhi Road in her welcome address paid tribute to Dr. Kulwant Rai. Welcoming all on the 92nd Birth Anniversary of Dr. Kulwant Rai she mentioned Dr. Kulwant Rai’s abiding passion for education and his vision to take education to all. His endearing quality of welcoming everyone with a smile spread positive energy everywhere. The faculty remembers him as a ‘visionary’ who guided all with his innovative thoughts and ideas.

The students at Banyan Tree School, Lodhi Road put up a spectacular cultural event to pay tribute and honour his Vision.The celebrations included a heartwarming performance by the tiny tots invoking the blessings of Lord Ganesha and hailing his auspicious presence through a dance.Krishna Janam leela was displayed through a soulful and graceful Kathak performance. Indian Music choir paid tribute by singing Bhajansclose to Dr. Kulwant Rai’s heart.

The guest of honour Smt. Nimmi Kanwar, a Bal Vikas Guru and close family friend who has had a long association of working alongside Dr.Kulwant Rai. Ms Nimmi Kanwar, esteemed guest of honour, for the day remembered him as one of the pioneers in establishing educational set up with the motto- ‘Let each child excel in his/her own way . She shared her memories of her association with the journey of Banyan Tree School over the years. In her message she asked all to fulfill a dream in their lifetime the way Dr. Kulwant Rai had achieved. At a time when establishing schools was not a foremost endeavour for many Dr. Kulwant Rai was one of the few visionaries who decided to take education to all and for all.

Smt. Nmmi Kanwar shared how Dr.Kulwant Rai encouraged everyone and his involvement and participation in every programme that were put up in school and also events organised by Sri Sathya Sai Organisation. She recalled his work in setting up the Roshini Rai School for the under privileged and her own days of having participated in the school activities as a Bal Vikas Guru. Smt Kanwar emphasised Dr Kulwant Rai’s generosity, and humility for the less fortunate and how this touched every one he met.

Her message to the faculty was very beautiful. She said that a teacher attains ‘moksha’ by just deciding to be with and working for the well being of the students. She mentioned that the educators are blessed with values and through their experiences and innovative techniques of teaching they have achieved true ‘moksha’. She further guided the school to involve the bal vikas principles and imbibe moral values.

The programme closed with the chanting of Om Sai Namoh Namah’, and paying tribute to Dr. Kulwant Rai for his remarkable leadership, integrity, deep devotion and magnificent generosity which we all acknowledge with profound gratitude and respect.