I read Steven Lewitt’s Freakonomics about five years ago. It is fun. It’s easy read with a lot of examples and insights that we can use in any personal, social or business situation. One nugget that I have kept from the book is that the incentives are extremely important while trying to understand any personal, family, social or business situation. Why are people behaving the way they are, and what incentives would help in getting them to change that?
I want to take it to my own personal journey. How do incentives play into personal development and goals?
Let me start bringing up work from three people that has helped me a lot.
- Steven Covey with his books
- Brian Tracy – his audio books, speeches on leadership, and one book in particular – Goals
- Anthony Robbins – I have watched his videos on YouTube; I have been to his seminar. I also read his book, Unlimited Power.
We love the clarity and power of straight-line goals. When faced with a complex decision or a complex business challenge, try to strip it down to its most basic elements.
I got the first test of it when I was doing MBA at the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine. I participated in a business plan competition. My challenge was to develop an effective thirty seconds elevator pitch, and then a five minute presentation to show the value and potential of the business. It forced me to remove a lot of details, prioritize and present only the things that mattered most. The exercise cleared up my mind as to what is important. And in the process helped me figure plan of execution.
Drive to make difference
I was part of the engineering product development team at the Conexant Systems. I was working on integrating data support in the flash device. This would help in removing an expensive EEPROM from the chipset, and improve flexibility of the solution. I drove the project and saw immediate impact to the business bottom-line. I saw excitement within the team and also with customers. That experience of being part of something meaningful was the best motivator that I ever had. We all need that.
Another example that I love is Wikipedia. It’s an online encyclopedia that is growing every day. And it has happened by thousands of people that want to contribute, and leave mark in their own way. What’s their incentive to do this? I think, it’s partly that they like the immediate impact of what they are doing to the world.
Always look at the value chain of your business. And see, how you can make difference to the bottom-line effectiveness without worrying about position, or compensation. You will connect with this urge from inside, and you will be putting this basic incentive to use. And if you do it with heart, the other things (like position, compensation, more customers, higher revenues …etc) probably will follow. I think same is true for the personal and family goals as well.
Sense of purpose
We all love to pursue the goals that resonate with what we believe in. I try to think about what these goals are for me as a person, as a professional, and as a family member. This fuels my passion and drive to make things happen.
We are wired up to do well when we put this built-in incentive to work.
We recently had a project to reposition the value prop with one of my customers. It required a shift in communication with the customers, and also the change in thinking inside the company. We did an all hands kick off explaining the vision and benefits from it. We asked for feedback as to how to go about implementing it. It galvanized the whole team around the purpose, and that helped all.
Also stretching the limits beyond what you normally do or achieve brings it out as well. One of my goals last year was to work on my physical fitness. I decided to run marathon, and completed the Orange County Marathon in May, 2010. But, that goal opened up a lot of drive and enthusiasm.
What do you do in your life and career that helps with meaningful results?