Can you ever really “work” at something you love?
My son loved taking photographs and was very good at it. When he tried to turn photography into a business he fell out of love with it.
When he did something else to earn money he went back to loving photography.
This isn’t unusual.
When people are offered a reward for doing something they’d happily do for free, some very strange things happen.
Children, who happily draw prolifically, draw less when they’re promised a reward.
Scientists who receive grants that come with pre-defined delivery expectations and strict external controls produce fewer high impact results than scientists who are given greater freedom to experiment – and fail.[pullquote]Would you still do what you love if you didn’t get paid for it? [/pullquote]
It’s often not the payment or reward itself that causes the problem, it’s the way it is perceived, both by the person receiving the reward and others.
Artists report that they don’t do their best work when commissioned. Independent assessors come to the same conclusion.
Blood donors who are offered payment turn up less often than those who expect to donate for free, but donors who are told that money will be paid to a charity turn up as often as those who do it for free, but not more often.
Would you still do what you love if you didn’t get paid for it?
I recently asked my group of business owners if they would still do what they do if they didn’t get paid for it.
Almost all of them said they would and that they’d find another way to make a living.
Why do people do things for free? What’s the motivation?
When Microsoft decided to publish an encyclopaedia in 1986 they hired top researchers and writers.
At the same time a bunch of volunteers, hobbyists and enthusiasts decided to contribute their time and knowledge free of charge to make a free encyclopaedia.
Any economist would have bet that the Microsoft product would win that battle but Microsoft pulled the plug on MSN Encarta in 2009 and Wikipedia was already the largest and most popular encyclopaedia in the world, and continued to grow and dominate that space.
Apache is free open-source software that is used by 52 percent of the corporate market, produced by volunteers but powering businesses that use it to make a profit. What would happen if the people who contribute to these systems were offered rewards?
Enter Self Determination Theory
Hundreds of research papers by scientists from many different disciplines from Economics to Business Studies to Psychology show that human beings reach their goals more easily when they make their own decisions (autonomy), when they connect and interact meaningfully with others (relatedness), and when they have skills to put their ideas into action (competence). This is known as the Self Determination Theory (SDT).
The company or organisation that imposes targets – whether this is sales targets, revenue goals, NHS waiting lists, emergency service response times or school SATS risks unleashing undesirable behaviour. Gamification, cheating, and taking shortcuts are just a few.
When the reward is the activity itself there is no need for shortcuts.
Redgate, one of the most prominent companies in Cambridge UK, found that a traditional sales commission system caused their sales people to spend more time on finding ways round the system than actually selling so they eliminated commissions for salespeople and paid them a healthy salary instead. By taking money out of the rewards equation their sales increased and the sales staff put their efforts into working as a team, delighting in each other competence and making their own decisions. Many other companies followed suit and got the same results.
For some people, as soon as money or other rewards are involved, it changes the relationship with the thing they love.
It looks like those theories that say the sweet spot is in finding something you love that that you can do easily and get paid for have got it wrong.
If getting paid for doing what you love stops you from loving it, you could be happier and better off doing the thing you love for free and earning a living doing something else.
If you’re not sure what you’re going to do for love and what you’re going to do for money, answer these questions:
What gets you up in the morning?
What keeps you awake at night?
If you like the answers you give yourself, use them as your compass.
If you don’t, decide what you’re going to do about it.
And if you want to talk about it, contact me :)