The Meaning Trap

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I really liked what Jack White has to say in this short clip about how inspiration and a good work ethic “ride right next to each other” (and how on stage he likes to deliberately make things harder for himself because all those little things build a tension that forces you to create). It’s an important balance.

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In Drive, Dan Pink drew on a plethora of scientific research to highlight the mismatch between what goes on in most businesses and what really motivates us as employees. High performance, satisfaction and motivation come from deeply human needs such as the desire to direct our own lives (autonomy), to learn, create and get better at something that matters (mastery), and to do what we do in the service of something bigger than ourselves (purpose).

Reading that it seems hard to believe how rarely these kinds of attributes are materialised in the expectations set by organisations for their employees. But somehow we seem to have forgotten them. 

A key part of this, I think, is about creating space. I agree with Adam when he says that people who do great work in businesses often also tend to be doing great, creative things in their spare time, “and that the two sets of activities cross-inform each other”. But it’s easy for us to fall into the ‘busy trap’. Easy to prioritise all kinds of stuff over things that may have no immediate payback but which we somehow get a lot of value or meaning from. I’m as guilty of that as anyone else. Perhaps, as this HBR piece suggests, we are not so much in danger of falling into a ‘busy trap’, as a ‘meaning trap’. Dan Catt’s post about creativity and mild depression is an example of what can happen when things get out of kilter. That is in no way a comment on The Guardian, where Dan worked, but I suspect is something that is not uncommon amongst many different organisations. As Dan Pink noted, it’s also something which can effect not just our work lives, but our whole life.

HT to @Brainpicker for the link to the Jack White clip

Image via flicrk

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