ROWE, ROWE, ROWE Your Learning

Here’s a quick one.

I was passed this great video (very fun and worth 10 minutes), which prompted me to get Daniel Pink’s book, Drive (available at our library).

In both is a great discussion on new research and thinking by the author and those he writes about regarding how we are all motivated in different ways at different times under different circumstances.  I urge you to read it.  If you’re a fan of Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, you’ll enjoy this, too.  Same vein of gold.

Pink’s work focuses on finding ways to build intrinsic reasons for employees to achieve their goals and produce results efficiently.  He argues that businesses (run by Type A, Theory X managers) offer too many extrinsic (Type X) rewards for things that employees would do better if the rewards were more intrinsic (Type I and encouraged by Type B, Theory Y leaders).   [Keeping up?  Too much management theory and coffee today, I guess.]

Research shows that extrinsic rewards work in circumstances where the tasks are well defined (or algorithmic or step-by-step), but those types of rewards can actually hurt performance when tasks require thought, creativity, or other non-linear paths toward a result (called heuristic tasks).  For these tasks, performance improvements are best gained by removing the reward and supporting internal motivations.  (For example, no one could pay me enough to write this blog.)

The point of this specific post is that Dan Pink writes about the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) and businesses that are trying out this radical shift in their work rules.  Very creative in its approach, a ROWE focuses employees on the results, not the incentives or compensation, as the motivation for performance.  Employees are paid sufficient to support their families and goals, but they are free to establish whatever work rules apply to the results they need to achieve.

I won’t spoil the rest of story, but I jumped immediately to the idea of a ROLE (L for Learning).  I’m familiar with New York City’s experiments in their “School of One” concept schools.  We’re all watching that one, but a ROLE would have many of the same characteristics as a ROWE (without the salaries, of course).  Namely, that students would be coached (maybe by teachers in a ROWE!) to focus on certain educational requirements, but allowed to pursue their own path to them under their own learning styles.  Pretty radical, too, and I would never claim to be an educator, but it is at least interesting. 

I know that certain skills have to be explicitly taught, but there are times, too, when students (and I’m still a student) just want to be left alone to explore their world using their new skills.  I find this to be true very often and I know personally that it serves to reinforce learning better than anything repetitive might be (a la homework).  Maybe that’s just me (but I don’t think so).

As usual, though, my “idea” of a ROLE was not new and I quickly found out that another teacher (a real one) had jumped to the same conclusion and was pursuing it further.  Though I’m mainly focused on the ROWE stuff, I wish him well on ROLE and will be watching, and learning.  Hopefully, he’ll share his results.  Watch and learn with me!  (And watch the video.  It’s good.)