Many business leaders believe that one of the most important motivators to impact employee performance is “Purpose”. It’s been romanticized in books, most notably “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek. It suggests that employees who are driven by their organization’s "why" are more motivated to perform at their best.
I know this is controversial, but there is a better motivator than “Why?”
I’ve interviewed thousands of people across hundreds of organizations. One of the questions I often ask is: “what is the purpose of your organization?” Inevitably, employees WITHIN THE SAME ORGANIZATION provide me with different answers. But if everyone’s idea of a business’ purpose is different, can we really assume that’s what drives people to be exemplary in their roles?
I’m proposing a bit of a controversial idea: maybe your company vision isn’t the primary motivator for most employees. A better motivator may actually be experimentation.
Play is More Important than an Organization’s Purpose
In the book Primed to Perform, authors Neil Doshi and Lindsay McGregor write about their interviews with 20,000 people. The two conclude that play is more important than purpose when it comes to motivating employees. The reason why people performed well at work wasn’t due to a company’s vision. It was because they got to work on projects that interested them. They liked what they were doing, which motivated them to do it well.
Why Experimentation is Essential
Allowing employees to “play” or experiment at work prompts the following two phenomena, which make people more likely to bring their A game every day:
Giving employees room to experiment allows curiosity to blossom. If a curious employee is encouraged to find the answers to their own questions, it can result in greater commitment, innovation, and productivity. Give someone the freedom to follow their hunches and watch what they discover.
The ability to experiment freely pushes self-expression and creativity to its maximum. When employees are given space to create, the cycles of innovation skyrocket. One creation inspires another and can also encourage other team members to produce impressive results.
The bottom line: if your employees are motivated, they'll produce better work. But, is an organization’s purpose the best way to motivate an employee? Unlikely. Encouraging experimentation is the best way of creating a culture of innovation.