Sunday, January 22, 2012

2 things your MBA fail to teach you

How many times have you sat at your desk, doing something you'd rather not, thinking a raise or bonus would make everything so much better? How many times have you thought that raise or bonus might actually hinder your performance? The answer to the second question is probably a much smaller number, but scientific data show this may be the case when it comes to certain tasks.

Daniel Pink, author of the bestseller A Whole New Mind and the new book Drive, says the key to high performance and satisfaction isn't about money; it's about internal motivation, what he calls Motivation 3.0.

There is a huge gap what science knows and what management does.The same gap that suck good worker's productivity like a quick sand.Ironically this is not totally the fault on the employees but merely the ignorant of the so call manager who label themselves as leader.

Behavioral scientist often divide the job we do in 2 categories which I doubt any top notch MBA class will touch on this.

• Algorithmic – a task which follows a set of established instructions down a single pathway to one conclusion.
• Heuristic – a task that has no algorithm, you have to experiment with possibilities and devise a novel solution.

You might ask at this point.So what's the big deal genius!

Because a breakthrough is not to be achieved through algorithmic task but in fact through heuristic task focus!

A key reason: Routine work can be outsourced or automated; artistic, empathic, non-routine work generally cannot.Keying in tonnes of excel grid,copying hard copy of data sheet in soft copy or sending scanned fax copy is an example of algorithm work. You can just outsource this to a secretary and not getting an engineer to get this done.Also, the other thing that changed is what people are doing at work. We're doing less of the routine, rule-based algorithmic work, whether that means turning the same screw the same way over and over again on an assembly line or even adding up columns of figures over and over again. The vast majority of white-collar work and even much of blue-collar work today requires much more conceptual thinking, much more creativity. 

In the U.S., only 30% of job growth comes from algorithmic work, while 70% comes from heuristic work. A key reason: Routine work can be outsourced or automated; artistic, empathic, non-routine work generally cannot.
External rewards and punishments can work nicely for algorithmic tasks but they can be devastating for heuristic ones. Solving novel problems depends heavily on the intrinsic motivation principle of creativity.

Working as a grocery checkout clerk is almost an algorithmic.You do pretty much the same thing over and all over again.

During this 20th centuries, many work WAS algorithm work.And it's not just jobs where you turn the same screw the same way all day long.Knowing these 2 difference will help manager in great deal in identifying the mismatch of an employees role and the whole rewarding system.

And the science is very, very clear that traditional mechanisms of carrot-and-stick, if-then motivators [i.e., "If you do this, then you get that"] don't work for creative, conceptual tasks. 
Because what those if-then motivators do is that they focus our attention and they concentrate the mind. And so if you say to me, "Ray, I'll give you $500 to do something," you have my attention. I'm completely focused on that task. And I'm thinking, "What does she want me to do?" Because I'm going to do that. 

Now, that's very good if you want people to carry out a prescribed set of instructions, because it focuses our attention in a very narrow way. That's actually very helpful in certain ways. If you're stuffing envelopes, just focusing on stuffing envelopes, you'll get it done faster. If you're processing something on an assembly line, focusing on that one particular task will allow you to get it done faster. 

The problem is that for creative conceptual tasks, you don't want a narrow focus. You want a wide focus. If you have a narrow focus, you're not going to have a solution to a problem. You're not going to make anything close to a conceptual breakthrough. 

Why do you think organizations continue to operate under the old assumption of carrots and sticks?

I think there's actually a mix of reasons for that. One of them has to do with the fact that these if-then motivators have worked for a long time. The other thing about it, which I think is an even somewhat harder problem to solve, is that they work, or at least they seem to work, in the short term. 

For example, say an executive director of an association says to her staff, "We need to come up with a new idea for recruiting members, and I'll give whoever comes up with the best idea a $2,500 bonus." I can guarantee that that executive director's staff is going to start scurrying with activity. And so that executive director says,

"Oh, look what a great leader I am. Everybody's working so hard." 

The problem is that you've fostered activity, but you haven't fostered any kind of creative thinking. These if-then rewards actually deliver either results or the appearance of results in the short term, so that fakes us out. 

However, if she were to say to her staff, "Hey, we really have to come up with something new for recruiting members. I think it can really play a big role in our organization. And I think you folks have the capacity and the talent and the drive to really come up with something great. So why don't you take the next month or so and try to come up with some great ideas. Organize it the way that you want. … I'm here to help you, give you resources and feedback, and what not." 

Then, if those people do come up with an awesome idea, after the fact she could say, "Now that you've come up with this breakthrough idea, thanks." I mean, I think thank you is a pretty important form of feedback. She could then recognize them in front of the rest of the staff, or recognize them individually. She could even offer a small cash bonus.

Because it's after the fact, it's not trying to control their behavior; it's a form of recognition and a form of feedback, and it's far less corrosive. So I think that's a way to combine it. The danger is that if you start doing that, some people will expect a now-that reward every time they lift a finger. 

Organization leaders need to say, "How much time in the last week have I spent helping identify progress people are making, helping recognize and celebrate progress that people are making?" My hunch is that the answer to that is going to be very, very little. And even upping that a little bit can be really powerful.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Over saturate market forced companies to rethink

If you had a stack of pennies as tall as the Empire State Building, could you fit them all in one room?
How many ping-pong balls would fit in the Mediterrean Sea? Can you swim faster in water or syrup? When there’s a wind blowing, does a round-trip by plane take more time, less time, or the same time? Today, a number of companies have taken a page out of the Google playbook and have begun asking interviewees brainteasers, logic puzzles and mind-bending riddles. The question you probably have right now is, Why?

Tech companies have long asked prospective employees to answer off-the-wall questions in an effort to identify the most nimble-minded applicants. But since the Great Recession, many non-tech companies are now asking would-be employees to estimate the number of bottles of shampoo produced in the world every year, or how many integers between 1 and 1,000 contain a 3.

(MORE: Suze Orman’s New Prepaid Debit Card)

TIME Moneyland talked to William Poundstone, author of the new book, Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?, about these unconventional interviewing methods, how Google revolutionized the interview, and how he would weigh his head.

When did this method of interviewing prospective employees begin?

Oxford and Cambridge, which for at least 100 years have had very difficult admission interviews. They give you curveball question like, “Does a Girl Scout have a political agenda?” But I think IBM was the first big company to do this. This was just after World War II, when computers were very new and they realized that programming a computer is not electrical engineering. They were getting people from all sorts of fields, so they started throwing in logic puzzles as a way to see if people were capable of thinking in new ways. These types of questions have been part of the culture of tech companies for quite some time. But the incredibly tough job market has done a lot to spread this to more mainstream companies.

What type of companies do this now?

I’m now finding that more people are reporting them from non-technology companies. It’s very big in banking and consulting, but even in retail, where you would never have had questions like that in the past.

So these questions are even popping at employers like Walmart?

Yeah, which is kind of overkill, I think. But companies are almost desperate in this job market because they’ll get 20 applicants, all of whom would’ve been great if the economy had been better. But they have to find some rationale for saying, This is why we’re going to hire this person and not these 19 other people.

The most famous example of this seems to be the Google billboards. Can you explain those?

Back in 2004, Google had these billboards where they would ask for the first 10-digit prime number found in the consecutive digits of e, and you were supposed to go to a certain website, if you were smart enough to figure that out. You could then send them an e-mail and your resume.

(MORE: Will Tensions With Iran Really Push Gasoline to $5 a Gallon?)

How are these questions better than the information gathered from a more traditional job interview?

There’s so much evidence that traditional interviews really don’t tell you very much. But research has shown that work sampling works: The best way to predict how someone is going to do on the job is to pose questions that are similar to the sorts of things they’d be doing. One of the reasons that Google’s interviews are so notorious is that there’s so much work in the interview. If you’re a coder, you might spend 80% of your interview doing actual coding problems. But they also throw in these offbeat questions. One of the things they hope to address in the interviews is, Are you open to new ideas? Can you think in flexible ways?

As the job market improves, do you think these types of interview questions will continue?

I think when it does get a little more normal, places like Walmart will stop asking really difficult questions.

I was surprised that your book is really meant to prepare anyone looking for a job, even outside the tech sector.

The book is designed for people who want to get a little confidence with these kinds of questions. Just reading them over, going through the explanations I give, tends to build people’s confidence.

So how can people prepare for these interviews?

These questions are difficult questions, which means that the first approach that pops into your head is probably going to be wrong. So a good approach is just to say, Well, I think the obvious approach would be this, but that’s probably not going to work, and then give your analysis of why the obvious approach fails. That gets you talking. You want to avoid dead air. And usually once you analyze how one thing’s wrong, that’s a good first step towards just brainstorming various other strategies. They like to see people who are very free with ideas, even if they’re half-baked.

Do you have a favorite brainteaser?

One that I like is: How would you weigh your head? Because there’s no really good answer to that. Smart people usually think of the Archimedes’ Principle. Archimedes had to weigh this crown for some king to find out if it was solid gold, and he stepped in the bath in ancient Syracuse and realized that the water level went up and he thought, A-ha! Eureka! He could dunk the crown in water to find it’s volume. You can kind of do that here. You could fill a basin of water to the brim and if you dunk your head in that water and collect the water that spills over, the volume of that water is going to be exactly the same as the volume of your head, which is helpful. But they’re not asking for the volume, they’re asking for the weight of your head. And you can say that the density of the human body is pretty close to that of water, just from the fact that we barely float in the swimming pool. It’s an approximation and it’s not necessarily a great answer, but maybe someday someone will come up with a definitive answer.

In a lot of these, it seems as if it’s not about the answer. It’s about working your way to an answer.

It’s about the thought process. Because with a lot of these, where you have to estimate something crazy, like how many ping-pong balls could fit in the Mediterranean Sea basin if it was drained, the interviewer doesn’t know the answer.

How frustrating. So I’m assuming that you’re qualified to work at Google now?

Probably not in terms of having the actual skills to work there, but I’m pretty good with some of these offbeat questions.

You could ace the interview, at least.

[laughs] Yeah, I suppose so.

Read more:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Are you smart enough to work at Google?

And here is the enlarged version