June 14, 2010

News & Opinion: Do You TED?

By: Sally Haldorson @ 3:24 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Cruising Twitter this morning, I read a quick mention of a talk on TED ("TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. On, we make the best talks and performances from TED and partners available to the world, for free.") The Tweet recommended Dan Pink's talk on motivation--needing a little motivation myself these days, I clicked. And spent an enjoyable 18 minutes listening to Dan Pink's entertaining and convincing argument that "there is a mismatch between what science knows and business does." In this case, Pink is talking about motivation, about how money as motivator only works for the simplest tasks, and autonomy works better as a motivator than money for many other more creative or fluid tasks which predominate our work culture in the 21st century. Listening to his argument about science v. business brought to mind how many "business" books I've been reviewing lately that use science to illuminate the behaviors and motivators of people. It's what has, all these years, intrigued me most about business books: business books are about work, and work is about the people who do it. Business books help improve the working conditions of the people who make up business. I'm not terribly interested in profit margins and day trading, or whatnot, but I am interested in people. Recently, we've recommended a handful of books that are more about the why than the what. Switch by Chip and Dan Heath combines "psychology, sociology, management, and case studies [to] tell stories of people and organizations who have successfully implemented significant changes--even when change is hard." Click by Ori and Rom Brafman is described as "a fascinating psychological investigation of the forces behind what makes us click with certain people or become fully immersed in whatever activity or situation we're involved in." The Upside of Irrationality by social scientist, Dan Ariely (watch his TED talk here) "exposes the surprising negative and positive effects irrationality can have on our lives. Focusing on our behaviors at work and in relationships, he offers new insights and eye-opening truths about what really motivates us on the job, how one unwise action can become a long-term habit, how we learn to love the ones we're with." Happiness at Work by Dr. Srikumar Rao (watch his TED talk here) isn't so much a research-based book as a guidebook subtly influenced by Eastern philosophy meant to "show you that it isn't the negative thing that happens to you that causes your unhappiness, it's how you see it." New June books like Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz, which "explores why we find it so gratifying to be right and so maddening to be mistaken, and how this attitude towards error corrodes relationships--whether between family members, colleagues, neighbors, or nations," and The Why of Work by Dave and Wendy Ulrich, which is an excellent extension from Dan Pink's talk because it explains that "according to studies, we all work for the same thing--and it's not just money. It's meaning." Nicholas Carr's The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains looks at "technology's effect on the mind," asking, "Is Google making us stupid?" It is easy to lose track of time surfing TED and watching the oodles of video talks (a little like spending some time reading thought-provoking manifestos on our site), but it is time well-spent, particularly if you have a company that allows for autonomous learning and development time, like Dan Pink argues for. Business books (and their surrounding media) are no longer strictly about doing business, but are instead include explorations in learning about what motivates and engages us as workers which is key to improving our performance and our satisfaction in our work.

About Sally Haldorson

Sally Haldorson's job as 800-CEO-READ’s General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing customer service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. In addition to her General Manager duties ensuring collaboration, integration, and quality, she reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits for the company. Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time used parts of both skill sets. Outside of work, she is most likely to be found hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (husband, child, dog) at home.