Dan Pink tells us there is a disconnect between what business does (competes) and what science shows us is effective.  Yet the HBR article on The Darwinian Workplace  suggests that a system where workers are aware of their performance relative to others and best performers are given more and preferred shifts increases worker satisfaction (at least for the good ones) and increases productivity.  This is recommended for people working in retail, restaurants and call centers.  The reason Darwinian Workplace works is that the tasks involve problem solving.  The important thing is to be clear on the distinction between productivity and creativity.

Productivity improves in the fear-based world.  People that don’t make the grade will decrease in income and if they don’t improve eventually lose their jobs.  This atmosphere can really motivate people and it feels good to be motivated.  You certainly aren’t bored.  You have flow; that sought after alignment of your heart, your mind and your will (Czicksentmihaly).

What I want to know is can a couple of workers get together and determine ways they could boost their collective efficiency on their own?  Allies are a very effective means of improving competitive advantages.  Would this improve the workplace atmosphere or be detrimental?

Also, how much agency does each person have to improve their ranking?  Some workers may like ‘worker of the week’ awards, posted for customers to see, or the ability to their tools-of-the-trade to increase their efficiency.  Research by Seligman on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder shows that soldiers who have a sense of agency can actually thrive in a war situation.  It is the feeling that a problem looms over you and you have no ability to effect the outcome that causes trauma.  Including the ability for individuals to use their brain power to take on the challenges to their productivity could make work even more effective and satisfying.

Now if it’s creativity you want you definitely don’t want a fear-based environment.  Fear narrows your focus;  creativity needs a broad focus to put things together that  never existed before such as a new way to line-up or to catch a mouse.   Creativity comes from the passion-based world.  This type of work  needs free space for thoughts to wander with no expectations of what the final product should look like.  A sense that your personal way of seeing the world has value.  Gifts of inspiration should be given that allow Creatives to follow their muse.  The subject has to be something they are interested in (aligned with their talent) and they need choice as to how they work (timing, location, style) and who they work with.  The current explosion of temp workers may be the result of creative people recognizing that this is the condition in which they can thrive.