Motivating Your Employees For Profit

I used to be the product manager for an employee recognition software, and as part of my job I became greatly familiar with what makes employees happy. Obviously recognition is one great motivator (but it's all in how you recognize), but another key motivator is autonomy. Not everyone needs autonomy, some people WANT their job to be a job... they want it to be mindless, and then go home to their own life at the end of the day.

However, a lot of people (especially in the 'knowledge economy') want to feel satisfaction in their job... they want to feel that they are making an impact within their organization, with their employer's customers and with the world at large. Autonomy is a great way to do this.

The employee recognition software I worked on was born out of an internal initiative that allowed staff members to reward each other with points and compliments without any management interference. Management could dole out recognition as well, but if I wanted to send recognition to the guy next to me, I could do so without passing it through management. Unless there was blatant abuse within the system (there were automated checks that made abuse obvious), there was no intervention by management and at the end of every month a small reward was given to the top recognized employees and some of the compliments were announced to the rest of the company (with both the senders and recipient's permission). There was a monetary reward, but it was not very substantial and you were not allowed to win it more than once in a year (it was a 120 person company).

Our system was successful for the company because it was autonomous and didn't rely on the economic rewards. The video above (with the fantastic artwork by Cognitive Media) does a great job illustrating (couldn't help it!) this point, and broadens it to show that if you can apply that autonomy to practical problems then you're able to get that much more out of your employees and simultaneously make them that much more satisfied with their jobs. And it's cheap!!

As an aside, is it any surprise that some of the people behind the disastrous economy are some of the most well-bonused individuals in the free world?

I hate pop, but I really like this guy.

Obsessives: Soda Pop from on Vimeo.

John Nese runs a grocery-store style shop in LA that only sells soda pop. It's probably going to be tough for him to make his business work over the long haul for a number of reasons, but I really hope he makes it.

He might have a little crazy in him but he's following his passion and making it work for him and others - and he's a likable guy all around. This 15 minutes does a pretty great job of summing up a lot of my thoughts on business, politics and what's wrong with the world today. This is what America (and Canada) should be all about so he's making it happen. Unfortunately it's more of a corn sugar, CRV and Ralph's kind of place - a Pepsi Co. world.

Watching this reminds me exactly why I got excited about Nenshi winning the mayor's race in Calgary. He was talking about making business easier for the average guy (easier to get permits, easier access to city hall, preventing government subsidies to special interest groups). I'm really hoping that it leads to more innovation and industrial diversity in this city. And I'm hoping that the rest of the world takes note and it catches on.

In any case, if I go to LA I'm gonna go visit this guy and buy some rose petal soda.

For all the entrepreneurs out there

Watch live video from c3oorg on

This is Andrew Mason, the CEO of Groupon. I saw him speak at the GROW Conference in Vancouver a couple of months ago, and he has a self-depreciating, and easy going personality that I like. It's nice to see successful people be humble.

As he points out in this talk (and as I've mentioned before on this blog), being an entrepreneur is hard. And it's particularly hard to be a tech entrepreneur in a non-tech city. In this speech (which is for something called 'Startup School' in the Valley), Mason talks about previous failures that led to the current iteration of Groupon, the difficulties in starting in a 'shallow' tech market (Chicago), and what is keeping him going.

What I learned here: stay with it, learn when to move on when something isn't catching on the way you thought it would, focus on the smaller ideas, and even when you do all that it is still going to be really hard and you still need help (Mason concedes midway & again at the end that they were given a bunch of money to start & pay a team to keep going).

A heads-up: with the new TED Talks iPad app, I've gone on a bit of a conference/seminar/forum talk spree lately. They're great to have on in the background while you work or are trying to go to sleep, and I like listening to smart people. My blog is likely going to start reflecting that obsession for a while.

Interview with Garrett Camp (Calgarian who invented StumbleUpon)

Watch live streaming video from internetweekny at

Garrett Camp is from Calgary. He is the guy who invented StumbleUpon. I love StumbleUpon & I live in Calgary... therefore he's a bit of a hero to me.

You may or may not be interested in this interview, but there are a couple of reasons why I enjoyed it. First, his laid back attitude is something I can identify with - maybe it's a bit of the Canadian effect, but he doesn't come across like a lot of the hyper-active, self-absorbed, 22 year old assholes that you commonly come across in this industry. He's a guy you could have a beer with.

Secondly, he talks a bit about getting angel investment and start-ups (something which directly pertains to me). It's not mind-blowing advice, but reinforcement always is valuable.

Finally, I found it entertaining to watch Melanie Wells. She seems completely out of place in this interview, she was maybe going for some friendly sarcastic ribbing but Camp's affable personality just made her look a little like a condescending bitch. I'm a little unsure what Forbes would even be doing here, she seems like she would be more comfortable interviewing a dying 90 year old CEO of a dying publishing empire. She seemed genuinely shocked that someone wouldn't have a boss (someone should tell her it is fairly commonplace in the Internet industry).

Expectations are for this book to change my life...

I'm going to squeeze all the motherfucking juice out of this orange!

This book talks about an iconoclast being someone who does something that everyone else says can't be done. I've always seen myself that way, and those are the expectations that people have placed on me. I would say so far I have not lived up to those expectations - in fact it hasn't even been close. I think a lot of entrepreneurs probably feel like an iconoclast, beating their heads against a wall for years on end, and putting everything on the line when nobody else sees what you see. Certain things happen along the way that validate that you are on the right track, but more often than not there are stumbling blocks and challenges that will cause you to fail and possibly give up completely along the way. A very small percentage are able to make it to the other side... it's a stressful existence and can be especially stressful for those in their life.

I've been working on Game Plan Systems for over 8 years now. Not full-time, straight through. During a few years it was nothing more than a support phone call and renewing some hosting services. However, other times it included 90 hour work weeks and the most stressful situations imaginable. Now we are up and running and there is more promise than ever for something that was nothing more than a lark a few years ago. Promise isn't success though, and there is a way to go before we are a legitimate success.

The introduction of the book opens with an anecdote about Howard Armstrong. In short, the story describes an event that happens 14 years after Armstrong proved to his friend (the head of RCA) that his invention, FM radio, was superior to AM. The thing was that RCA was heavily invested in AM radio, so Armstrong not only lost his friendship but also ended up banging his head against the wall for 14 years trying unsuccessfully to make a business out of his invention. The event that happened 14 years later was Armstrong jumping out his apartment window, committing suicide after not being able to make a living out of one of the greatest and most essential inventions of the 20th century. His wife ended up selling the patent to RCA a year later for $1m, but lost a husband and probably sold for far too little.

I value my life way too much to consider what Armstrong did as a viable option, but as an entrepreneur I can certainly relate to the struggle. I often wonder why I'm 'blowing my brains out' over something that carries only a potential payoff down the road. Ultimately, I wouldn't want it any other way though. I like taking the risk, even if it never works out... it's about the journey, not the destination right?

Anyways, I take any kind of self-help book with extreme grains of salt. But I am hoping to take one or two useful bits of advice out of this book which will make me a more effective iconoclast.

I'll let you know if it's worth the read. Stay tuned!