What to work for?

As with most things in the realm of the human life, we can roughly divide labor into two categories: the creative and the routine. Traditionally, routine labor has relied on an “if/then” causal motivation: If you spread the seeds and till the soil, you will reap a harvest; if you write up case reports, you will be compensated monetarily; and, if you design a web ¬†application, you will be paid handsomely. The animal mind is wired to operate in order to attain a certain reward, until this causal relationship works backwards and the saliva begins to dribble down the dog's snout as soon as Pavlov strikes the bell. Marx has criticized Western Capitalism, explaining via his coined “commodity fetish” that we have replaced “the thing itself”; labor, for an arbitrary numerical value; a wage. And even though we'll probably never be able to get things right by uniting as¬†proletariats, we can rethink our capitalistic foundations so that we don't work for it, but it works for us.
The Open Source projects have become a phenomenon in our time, putting together superior quality journalism, design, and craftsmanship, yet they rely on voluntary cooperation. For most of the workers on projects such as the OS Linux, their motivation is a derivative of being involved in a proj

ect that is worth their time and effort, a project that aspires to greatness. Of course, the greatest creative minds in the world are not going to just volunteer their services while they beg for spare change in their free time. When people have a certain baseline covered; adequate financial stability, can eat moderately well and live underneath a solid roof, their reserve energies can go toward a great work. This rule should apply to any work situation: if you can pay your workers enough to not worry about their pay, they will be more eager to do better work, since they are not preoccupied with worrying about their pay. At this point, the mind is free to ponder creative possibilities, exerting its own autonomy and pursuing some destiny not in order to be paid but to think some great thought, or devise some brilliant application.

So how then to reward “creativity” if not in currency? By providing constructive criticism and recognizing the progress made. Once forward thinking developments are identified and praised both on the managerial/editorial level and on the worker/creator level, the Pavlovian ceremony can be untrained, and the creative mind will begin accustoming itself to working in order to push the envelope and not in order to pay the bills.

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