The key discovery by the Behavioural Economists is that:
- As long as a task involves only mechanical skill, monetary incentives correlate with performance i.e. higher the pay the better the performance.
- Once a task involves even rudimentary cognitive skill, a larger reward leads to poorer performance !!!
This is precisely what has happened in the Singapore political scene today. Singapore's ministers have been given larger and larger financial rewards, and they have been giving Singaporeans poorer and poorer performance!!! As I stated in this post, Singapore's current generation of leaders have given us a seemingly non-ending litany of cockups - the kind of cockups that the previous generation of leaders would not have allowed to happen.
Dan Pink makes further observations in the video about what truly motivates people:
- The best use of money is to pay people enough, in order to take the issue off the table
- The factors that lead to better performance and personal satisfaction are
1. Slash the ministers' pay to a level where they do not need to worry about putting food on the table, but where they are not adversely motivated by greed. I think that around $500,000 per annum is enough for the prime minister. This is in line with global leaders' pay packages and will give him more than enough. The rest of the ministers' pay packages should be slashed in line with this.
2. Our political leaders must have a sense of higher purpose to serve the country and its people, and not be motivated by greed! This is not possible when their sole job is to appease the megalomaniacal desires of an octogenarian who is bent only on clinging on to power and who does not allow dissent. A genuine love for one's country is marked by the willingness to express dissent and challenge the status quo and to move things forward. It is not marked by rote compliance and mechanistic movements.
How do we ensure our leaders have a true sense of purpose? unfortunately, Singaporeans NEED TO CHOOSE the right leaders who are motivated this way, and not by greed and power.
The current compensation system as set up by Lee Kuan Yew BRINGS OUT THE WORST in our political leaders, and results in negative performance! Recent history has corroborated this and now the science has given us a clear explanation why!
3. If you want engagement, you need to give people autonomy! The PAP government precisely does not want engagement with the people. It wants mindless automatons who mechanically submit to the power of the Lee regime and who do not question instructions. It incentivises this behaviour amongst the people by using the carrot and stick approach! Students learn this from a young age with a mechanical rote learning syllabus from the beginning of their studies all the way thru graduation... Scholars are picked because of their ability to perform well within a mechanical syllabus that does not require critical thinking - and their incentive system is precisely the carrot and stick approach where the profit motive is unmoored from the purpose motive.
Singapore society is fundamentally flawed in the way our incentives and our motivations are set up. Throughout school and within the bureaucracy, the designs of Lee Kuan Yew have created mindless automatons shaped into compliance incentivised by the greed motive and not by genuine human motivations of autonomy, mastery and purpose.
Change needs to happen throughout this country and this society all the way from the top to the bottom. Or else... more bad things are going to happen!!!