Awards, when they are genuine and sincere, they are highly motivating

Last weekend was the Academy Awards and I don’t normally watch them, but little else was on so I flipped around and found myself taking it in. The Oscars are probably the most popular awards on the planet. There are others like the Nobel prize that are also well known, but Hollywood’s reach is stronger than nuclear physics.

The stage welcomed one show biz magician after another and each was humble and overjoyed. There is nothing like earnest gratitude. And that’s the thing with awards, when they are genuine and sincere, they are highly motivating. Recognition by ones peers is a powerful reward. We are social beings after all.

Awards are often overlooked as a source of motivation. Dan Pink calls them out in his book Drive and I ran across a paper written by Bruno S. Frey and Susanne Neckermann called Awards: A Disregarded Source of Motivation which talks about different aspects of Awards. One note I jotted down was that people value status independently of any monetary consequence. Why this is important is because in a rational – yet fictional – world rewards can be viewed as amounting to future compensention, but the statement argues against that. The authors did a review of the International Who’s Who to see how they stack up in terms of awards. They chose an international list because awards are not unique to any particular culture. Their findings are that awards are central to business, academia, and the military, and not solely the province of monarchies. Perhaps that goes without saying, but it moves the dial toward understanding the major task of more closely analyzing the incentive properties of awards and to compare them to monetary payments.

Side note: Calem R. Hoffman, a gentleman from my high school, was recognized for his dissertation describing the investigation of neutron-rich isotopes at the dripline, and, in particular, for the identification of a systematic reduction in the effective p-sd shell gap, indicating a weakening of the gap as neutrons are added.

Working Thoughts 3/13/09
A Review of The Fearless Fish Out of Water: How to Succeed When You’re the Only One Like You

Working Thoughts 3/13/08
Interpersonal Skills and the Brain – a study


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