I’ve recently read Daniel Pink’s new book on the science of motivation, “Drive,” and found quick application for Paper Water Bottle. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in pop-sociology, the way people work, and management theory generally. Pink’s purpose is really to point out that business is decades behind psychology in understanding what really motivates people.
Pink suggests that in the twenty-first century, as work transitions from rote, repetitive tasks (think assembly line) to creative and cognitive tasks (drawing boards and drawing rooms), the way we are motivated changes too. I won’t recap it all here, but the science is pretty clear that traditional outward rewards like bonuses are great for assembly lines, but actually hamper creativity. Instead, Pink suggests the real keys to motivation are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. That last, the need for purpose, is particularly significant, because it doesn’t just redirect individuals, it redirects entire enterprises. An employee who wants to understand the broader meaning of their work is aided enormously if the company has a broader understanding of its mission and meaning overall.
As our economy changes in the way Pink describes, more than just enterprises change. Markets change too. Markets also want many things. Some of those are easily quantified–faster, cheaper, more streamlined or powerful–others not so much. Increasingly, buyers also want products that make things better, or at least no worse. Obviously there are reasons beyond the bottom line to use recycled and recyclable materials. Producers do it because they care, but also because buyers care. It impacts the functioning of a company on many different levels.
Paper Water Bottle, LLC is fortunate to feature a product with a purpose beyond its obvious utility. We strive for a product that will not simply “do no harm,” though that is certainly a starting point, but for a product that actually helps solve a larger problem– the continuing use of fossil fuels in plastic, and their undesirable accumulation in landfills and the environment generally. In fact, our goal is nothing less than a product that makes the world better every time it’s used.
But a product need not be so explicitly purposeful; more and more firms are finding innovative ways to bring meaning to their companies and their careers. Buy one/give one is a recurring theme for some–a commitment to donate a product (computers, shoes, etc) every time a product is purchased. The products in these cases needn’t be new, but the meaning is, and it’s coexisting nicely with the need for return on investment.