Friday, August 6, 2010

Fun theory

Controlling human behaviour is a major task in business. For businesses with presence in multiple countries this is number one priority. There are standard carrot and stick approaches that organisations follow to control behaviour and limit deviation. So, if a person comes late for three days in a month, she loses half a day's salary. A vendor who faults on quality pays a steep fine. Bonuses are awarded to employees who achieve a certain target.

Nothing wrong with this approach. I personally have been a big proponent of a structured measurement system for employees. I have advocated that the financial incentives must be structured to incentivise the required behaviour. Reverse is also true. So, if a boss promotes a subordinate who does not question him at all and has a subservient and obedient behaviour, chances are that majority of his subordinates will behave like that. Some companies have incentives for sales professionals not just according to value and volume, but also according to the mix of the products sold. So, at least 20% (or some 'x' %) of the products sold must be those from a certain basket.

There is another way. Have a look at this site:

Do have a look especially at the third video, the staircase one.

It is a new perspective on controlling behaviour. It s about making it 'fun' to act in a particular manner. Staircases that make a piano sound, a dustbin with sound affects or a bottle recycling machine that doubles as a game are all simple examples. In all cases they managed to achieve the desired affect. People did start using the stairs more. The dustbin did gather more garbage.

As business leaders we need to put our thinking caps. Yes, deviant thinking is difficult. But it is necessary. We need to insert some 'fun' into our businesses. Employees should enjoy coming to work. Their should be some pleasure in following the processes. This is a surely a very sound recipe to create path breaking innovations and high performance organisations.

Yes, business is serious business. There are billions of Rupees (or Euros) at stake. Does this mean that we need to not smile while working? Maybe people who understand the hows and whys of human behaviour would add more value to this topic. This is precisely the Virgin (Branson) way of doing work and I am sure many of our businesses would do better that way.