Category: Business

Seth Godin: Easier to Teach Compliance Than Initiative


“Compliance is simple to measure, simple to test for and simple to teach.  Punish non-compliance, reward obedience and repeat.

Initiative is very difficult to teach to 28 students in a quiet classroom.  It’s difficult to brag about in a school board meeting.  And it’s a huge pain in the neck to do reliably.

Schools like teaching compliance.  They’re pretty good at it.

To top it off, until recently the customers of a school or training program (the companies that hire workers) were buying compliance by the bushel.  Initiative was a red flag, not an asset.

Of course, now that’s all changed.  The economy has rewritten the rules, and smart organizations seek out intelligent problem solvers.  Everything is different now.  Expect the part about how much easier it is to teach compliance.”

Charging by the Hour

I agree.

“When you charge by the hour, you and your client begin your relationship with diametrically opposed desires. You want to bill more hours, they want you to bill fewer hours. That is a sucky place to start a relationship”  – Jason Blumer, Pricing Strategices for Creatives (read more)


Two studies that call into question the ideas that:
– If you reward something do you get more of the behavior you want?
– If you punish someone you get less of the behavior you want.

As long as the task involved used only a mechanical skill the bonuses worked as expected.  Higher pay = better performance.  That makes sense.

Once the task called for rudimentary cognitive skill the larger the reward led to poorer performance.

For simple, straight forward tasks reward mechanisms work great.

When a task gets more complicated, it requires some conceptual, creative thinking, those types of motivators don’t work.

Fact.  Money is a motivator.  If you don’t pay enough, people won’t be motivated.

Pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table.  So pay people enough to take money off the table so they aren’t thinking about money, but rather the task/work at hand.

3 factors lead to better performance & personal satisfaction…
– Autonomy (the desire to be self directed).
– Mastery (mastery is the urge to get better at stuff).
– Purpose. More and more organizations want a transcendent purpose.

Traditional notions of management run foul of this.  Management is great if you want compliance but if you want engagement, self directed is better.

When the profit motive gets unmoored from the purpose motive, bad things happen.

Skype: Our goal is to be disruptive but in the cause of making the world a better place.

Steve Jobs: I want to put a ding in the universe.

We are purpose maximizers not profit maximizers.  We care about mastery very deeply and we want to be self directed.

Difference Between A Boss & Leader



Drives Employees Coaches Them
Depends on Authority Depends on Goodwill
Inspires Fear Generates Enthusiasm
Says “I” Says “We”
Places Blame for the Breakdown Fixes the Breakdown
Knows How it is Done Shows How it is Done
Uses People Develops People
Takes Credit Gives Credit
Commands Asks
Says “Go” Says “Let’s Go”