Are you creating a master piece or painting by numbers?

This summer I was reading #DanAriely The Upside of Irrationality and I smiled. For a Behavioural Economist, he is funny but a story also resonated with me about how you view your ‘Worth’ from the work you produce and this stuck in my mind. Recently this has also led me to think about, not only the work you produce but more specifically ‘How’ you do it: i.e being the master of your work or painting by numbers.

Firstly back to Dan: An ex-student of his came back and complained that he felt demoralised and basically un-engaged. He was paid lots of money to think .. (the second part I can relate to) but after spending hours on an deck, sending it, feeling great, then the feedback.. “I’m sorry” we’re not doing that any more. Oh! He earned lots of money — what’s the problem?

Your Worth is wrapped up in your output:

I think in the world were we “think” for a living, i.e. use problem solving and cognitive power to produce ideas and turn them into Product or Services, we forget that these are our outputs. Our worth is wrapped in our output. When this is disregarded too often, unconsciously this will lead to disengagement, a “Can I be bothered”…”Here we go again” attitude.

Dan Ariely’s research backs this up and no carrot or stick approach will help in the long run. Dan Pink in ‘Drive’ calls this our human need for intrinsic drive to feel mastery, autonym and purpose in our work. Check out his#DanPink Ted talk.

Now to the, How we produce:

This is easier if you imagine you are Painter. You might get commissioned and told the subject. Someone might even help with technique. But the difference is — it’s your masterpiece, you’re the author. It might not get bought, typically not everyone will like it, but it’s your masterpiece and you can feel proud.

Ask yourself at work, are you using your expertise, creative talent or are you painting by numbers?

Again if you don’t take control or let your staff be part of the ownership, you will lose engagement, lose creativity and eventually resignation; mentally and physically.

How to solve this? Well there are different ways, firstly, trust! Don’t bulldozer them but work together to produce the best solution. This might be a great career development opportunity. Also ideation, story boarding approach really helps here. Especially in a large organisation, make sure your travelling in the same direction!

So whatever you’re doing remember you’re the master of your own artwork… even my 7 year old hates painting by numbers!