I just finished reading the book “Drive” by Daniel Pink. And by read I mean opening the overdrive app on my phone, connecting the bluetooth receiver in my car stereo and clicking play to listen to the audio book. In “Drive,” Pink outlines a number of concepts that relate to personal and professional happiness. He explores the difference between Type I and Type X people. Those who are intrinsically and extrinsically motivated. In his exploration of these two types of people, Pink spends a significant amount of time debating the benefits and costs of rewards, or more accurately providing the proper types of rewards and recognition. He has found that providing the wrong type of recognition or reward can actually decrease productivity and professional or personal satisfaction with a task. What he found in general is that people who are are doing tasks or work that they feel is valuable or meaningful will often spend more time and effort to accomplish the goal. While finding what motivates each individual to do their best work may be difficult, in general, those who are able to spend some time in their day working on things that they feel make a positive contribution are happier and more productive employees, and people.
One thing that also contributes to that sense of satisfaction is the ability to work autonomously. The opportunity to have freedom in how you perform your job responsibilities, and having the ability to decide how you spend your time during the day. Some companies have experimented with autonomy to an extreme where their employees are allowed to work from home, set their own hours with little oversight by supervisors. The system works for them because they are results driven. Each person sets up performance goals with their supervisor and are expected to meet those goals. The employees understand what is expected and make adjustments to their schedules to meet those needs. Working in a school where we serve students, and staff, we don’t have the opportunity to work from home, or the type of flexibility in our hours. However, when you work is just one example of autonomy that provides job satisfaction. I know my role has both regular expectations on my time and flexibility. I am wondering in what ways people in our department have autonomy in their work.
Another recurring concept in “Drive” is Flow. And I can’t help but think of this visual when I hear Flow. I immediately thought of Flo from the Progressive Commercials. But then this morning I had a flashback to an old TV show I believe “Mel’s Diner,” that I watched as a kid. So back to Flow, the concept in “Drive” resembles the things in life that fill your bucket. The aspects of life that bring you joy, happiness and fulfillment. They did a study where they asked people to avoid aspects of their day that brought them Flow. Those moments in life and work that provide you happiness. What they found is that depriving yourself of Flow led to people feeling mentally drained, sluggish, and in the end they researchers realized after two days they had to stop the experiment to protect the participants.
Flow is necessary for our happiness. Pink suggests that if you want to help identify the Flow in your life, you set up 40 random reminders to go off over the course of the next week or two. Each time one of these notifications goes off, you stop what you are doing and record the following: What you are currently doing, How does this make you feel, and are you in flow? Are you satisfied, happy, content with what you are currently doing. After you have examined these entries, you should be able to better identify what your Flow is and where it exists in both your personal and professional life.
The last major takeaway from the book was the discussion of 20% Time and FedEx Days. 20% Time is the concept of using 20% of your week, or 1 day out of the week to be able to work on a project of your choice. Doing something that you are passionate about. I used this concept in my classroom and the results were amazing. Students worked on personal goals to improve skills in sports, or learn a foreign language. Some wanted to explore technology and build apps. What was surprising is that some students struggled to find their passion. They hadn’t been provided the opportunity for autonomy in learning. For businesses that have implemented this, they have come up with things like Gmail, Google Hangouts, and other popular products that we use today have come out from 20% time.
A variation of this concept is FedEx days. Some employers have set up a day where staff come together to create teams and work on tackling a problem or creating a new project. These days have resulted in software fixes, new products, etc. The format of these days is to provide them a single day to do the work and the next day each team must deliver their results. There is a deliverable of their efforts, hence the FedEx days. The key to the success of these opportunities is that they are staff driven, they are non-competitive and allow people to engage in their interests and passions.
What would you work on if you had 20% time or a FedEx day?
What things make up your Flow?