After years of perpetual workplace motivation sessions, telling people that they are special, intelligent and fearless, nothing has changed – companies still struggle with under-performing staff and employees still struggle with motivation.
Behavioural strategist Dan Gregory, a regular on ABC’s Gruen Planet, and his business partner Kieran Flanagan at The Impossible Institute have worked with some of Australia’s biggest companies including Coca-Cola and Vodafone.
In their new book Selfish, Scared & Stupid, the duo provide practical solutions to motivational myths.
“The problem is that survival of the fittest has always favoured the risk-adverse and self-serving; being selfish, scared and stupid is just human nature,” say Gregory and Flanagan.
“Instead of telling ourselves that we aren’t disciplined enough to reach our goals, we need to put in place solutions that make it difficult NOT to reach our goals.”
The book outlines the three most common human drives: selfishness, fear and a need for simplicity and ease.
To effectively increase influence and performance, whether it be in the workplace or at home, Gregory and Flanagan breakdown these traits and provide implementable solutions and real-life examples that stem from extensive research and an impressive combined body of work.
Gregory and Flanagan drew up this list for Business Insider, as a way of demonstrating that stupidity really does work:
1. We are all stupid – and that’s a good thing
We tend not to think of stupidity as a good thing, In fact it is largely seen as an insult. However, our bias towards the simplest and easiest solutions to problems has actually played a critical role in how our species survived and thrived. So suck it up and get over it – we’re all stupid
2. Thinking Stupid doesn’t mean acting stupid
In fact, it means precisely the opposite. Thinking Stupid mean to understand the core drivers of our people and our customers and to account for those. Rather than expecting a largely disengaged work force and market place to all of a sudden develop an incredible interest in the minutia of everything we do, we should instead design systems and processes where they can engage to the level we need them to just as they are.
3. Apply Post-It Note discipline to your communications
To paraphrase Albert Einstein, if you can’t write your instructions on a Post-It in text large enough for your Grandmother to read, you don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate clearly enough – and neither will your team.
4. Reduce the friction in your processes
In other words, make your processes more intuitive and aligned to human nature. Rather then trying to cajole your team into behaving a certain way to achieve a particular outcome, put that outcome in the direct path of their natural behaviour. Need people to wash their hands after visiting the restroom, put the soap dispenser on the door, not the wall. It sounds ridiculous but it will actually make a dramatic difference.
5. Keep it simple
Stupid likes things simple. When we really want people to buy in to what we’re saying, we need to keep it simple. Every year, we are assaulted by information that is equivalent to every human being on earth reading 174 newspapers a day. Not only does simplicity lead to a greater comprehension and retention, it also gets more of our attention.
6. Make it easy (read lazy)
Stupid likes things to be easy. If we can avoid work, most of us will to a greater or lesser extent. But here’s why that’s a good thing – it makes us more efficient. Looking for a quicker, less labour-intensive solution actually drives innovation and uptake. So the next time you’re complaining about a lazy workforce, consider how this might work for you.
7. Make failure difficult
Why is it that so much of our systems design is structured like some kind of test for our employees and customers? Instead of making engagement hard for people, we should instead make failure difficult. Want to encourage office recycling? Put the recycling bins in easy reach, not in the lane behind the office. Want people to fill out their time sheets? Put a tick box app on their computer screens so they can do it in real time instead or inventing it on paper every Friday evening.
Dan and Kieran’s new book Selfish, Scared & Stupid is published by Wiley.
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