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Thinking Pink

In my last post, I talked about how a person’s health can mean that he or she has a lower biological age than chronological age.

Today, I want to talk about the culture, talent, and talent management needed to realize this brave new world. I am going to focus on lessons from Dan Pink, a great writer and neurobehavioralist from Columbus, Ohio.

Two of my favorite reads are his book Drive: The Surprising Truths about what Motivates Us and the short but powerful Flip Manifesto.

Traditional MBA coursework says people are motivated primarily by money. Pink, in Drive, uses data to argue that this isn’t actually true.

In cognitive and creative work, one must be paid fairly, but once that is done, paying more money in bonuses or incentives for progress in creative work actually makes the results worse! Watch him explain.

Wow. Autonomy, mastery, and purpose as primary drivers of performance, employee satisfaction, and happiness. Perhaps this will change how we think of our work force and reward systems.

Let’s now turn to Flip Manifesto – 16 Counterintuitive Ideas about Motivation, Innovation, and Leadership.  

Here’s a preview of the Manifesto:

  • Motivation
    • Pay people too much
    • Take vacation whenever you want
    • Start a to-don’t list
  • Innovation
    • Turn your problem over to someone else
    • Do the reverse of what you are doing now
    • Spend time on what you really care about at work
  • Leadership
    • Establish a department of why
    • Talk like a human being
    • Scrap performance reviews
    • Talk less, listen more

Dan also references a very well recognized talent management system developed by Netflix, the streaming video company. It’s summarized in Netflix Culture: Freedom and Responsibility. (This slide deck is rich in content, so please digest it at your own pace.)

I found two things in this deck particularly engaging.

The first is about values:

Many companies have nice sounding value statements displayed in the lobby, such as Integrity, Communication, Respect, and Excellence. However, the actual company values, as opposed to the nice-sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go. Actual company values are the behaviors and skills that are valued in fellow employees.

Great workplaces are stunning colleagues.

At Netflix, we particularly value the following nine behaviors and skills in our colleagues…meaning we hire and promote people who demonstrate these nine:

  • Judgment
  • Communication
  • Impact
  • Curiosity
  • Innovation
  • Courage
  • Passion
  • Honesty
  • Selflessness

The second is about rules:

As companies get bigger and more complicated, complexity of size and desire to maintain profit leads to a number of rules and processes. This creates the feeling of order and protects short-term returns.

Great people tend to check out at this time, since stringent oversight and systems that are made to create uniformity are not what they are looking for in a job.

Netflix believes in the opposite – hire great people and demand creativity and self-discipline of these talented leaders to embrace this complexity as a sustainable competitive advantage. This advantage comes from the realization that volatility is inherent to any organization and that fluidity and evolution of a company define sustainable great ones – and the true north for this excellence is a constant focus on “why” or purpose the company/organization stands for. Breaking up this complexity into smaller, simpler teams and products begins to address this complexity.

Companies that have strong values and people become “antifragile,” where volatility actually enhances their outcomes.

I’ll focus on that next time.

Think Pink and subscribe to Netflix (at least its approach to talent management and culture!).