By Dr. Harry Tennant


by Harry Tennant
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Entries with keyword: rewards
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Monday, May 14, 2012

Creating habits for improvement

It's easy to say that you would like the folks in your organization to have a habit of continuous improvement. It's harder to make it happen.

The end result we are looking for is for everyone in the organization from the bottom to the top to have a habit of looking for opportunities for improvement and making those improvements. So, how do you build such a habit?

A habit consists of a cue, a routine and a reward. The cue triggers the habit, the routine is the process that a person executes and then the reward keeps him doing it.

Let's say you're going to encourage folks to reflect daily on their day to think of opportunities to improve. You create a cue. In this case, it's a time cue: 15 minutes before quitting is reflection time.

Now, create a routine. What is supposed to happen during reflection time? Perhaps it's to list the major activities of the day and consider improvements for each.

What's the reward? If reflection time is mere compliance to an administrative directive, that's not much of a reward. Or maybe the reward is to avoid the wrath of one's supervisor if the work is not done. Again, not much of a reward. Or perhaps the reward is the feeling of well-being one gets from seeing his performance get better and better. Possible. That's a long shot, but the odds can be enhanced through measurement and tracking so improving performance can be easily visualized. But it's still a long shot.

Video game makers want their games to become habitual (addictive, actually), so what rewards to they provide? An interesting article on The Theory of Gaming Motivation puts it this way:

There are 11 basic psychological needs that people can fulfill by playing video games. ... The 11 basic needs are gaining knowledge, gaining and improving skills, feeling competent, persevering through hard times, creating tools, managing danger, regulating emotions, competing for rewards, cooperating for rewards, caring for loved ones, and satisfying the senses with pleasant inputs (sights, smells, sounds, etc.). In the model they will each be referred to by their relevant nouns. Only “satisfying the senses with pleasant inputs” is called “Optimal Choice” because that is the purpose of satisfying our senses. They help us make the best choice by making us feel attracted to “good” things and repelled by “bad” things.

We do not always feel the 11 basic needs for what they are. Most often we simply crave the rewards that they offer and intuitively do the right things to fulfill neglected needs. The three types of reward we feel are achievement, recognition and satisfaction.

And here are the needs and their rewarding feelings in games:

  1. Knowledge
    •  Rewarding feeling: Achievement
  2. Skills
    • Rewarding feeling: Achievement
  3. Competence
    • Rewarding feeling: Achievement
  4. Perseverance
    • Rewarding feeling: Achievement
  5. Creation
    • Rewarding feeling: Achievement
  6. Danger Management
    • Rewarding feeling: Achievement & Fulfillment
  7. Competition
    • Rewarding feeling: Achievement & Recognition
  8. Cooperation
    • Rewarding feeling: Achievement, Recognition & Fulfillment
  9. Caring
    • Rewarding feeling: Recognition & Satisfaction
  10. Emotional Regulation
    • Rewarding feeling: Satisfaction
  11. Optimal Choice
    • Rewarding feeling: Satisfaction

In a work situation, there's one more need that's not relevant to gaming: meaningfulness. Games are enjoyable but playing them doesn't help our fellow man. But teaching, contributing to useful products or activities that benefit others can feel meaningful. We have to remember, however, not to rely too heavily on the long-term rewards of meaningfulness. It is much more effective to incorporate the 11 more immediate needs and rewards listed above.

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Keywords: continuous improvement, rewards

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