A Lesson from Google

The recent buzz about Google giving all employees a 10% raise along with a $1000 bonus plus a holiday cash bonus, reportedly because in the words of Eric Schmidt (CEO) “We want to make sure that you feel rewarded for your hard work, and we want to continue to attract the best people to Google”, on the surface seems like a smart move by management.  After all who doesn’t want to be recognized for the contribution they make!  Moreover if the company is doing well, then everyone should benefit.  Such a policy encourages a cooperative (win-win) culture that can only contribute to continued collaboration among people to the benefit of the organization.

Apart from those in management raining on their own parade by firing the person who made the confidential memo public, there is more to this decision below the surface.  If management/leadership believes the way to feeling rewarded is through monetary reward, then management is setting the organization up for failure.

If we use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a framework to explain this point, we can see how when an individual becomes attached to some aspect of material reality he/she essentially becomes stuck at the lower level needs (i.e., physiological, security, belongingness, esteem) and ceases progressing toward self-actualization, the highest level in the hierarchy.  It is through experiences at the highest level that our greater potential is most likely to emerge.  Thus those in authority must attend to creating the environment—through structure, policy and management practice—wherein such experiences are likely.

The following excerpt from It’s the EconoMe, Stupid offers further explanation.

S:     I think I understand, the levels correspond to different levels of concern?

Q:      Yes, they do correspond with deeper levels of concern and correlative with increasing levels of self-awareness and higher levels of human capability.

S:      Is someone who is realizing the highest-level need—self-actualization—more human than one who is at the second or third level?

Q:      Irrespective of whether he/she is meeting the lower level or the highest level needs, the individual is human; it is just that those who function at the highest level are realizing more of his/her unique humanness. For example, a person would realize greater human capability, like more creativity, if the higher-level is attained.

S:      So how does this align with our discussion on psychic/human-energy?

Q:      When we focus our attention on something we are essentially directing our consciousness, making it a stronger part of our life. Hence mindful attention directs the flow of energy, canalizing psychic energy, and greatly influencing the way we behave in the world.

S:      You have me a little confused: Can you be more specific?

Q:      Consider one of the aspects of the safety/security level of needs is the need to have financial means. If an individual is materially focused, then he/she would seek need satisfaction by placing his/her attention on the material aspects of life.

S:      This makes sense because financial wealth is a material need!

Q:      Yes, and it does afford security and the means to attend to other basic needs. Now with the security need met, the materialistic person would seek to meet his/her esteem needs—the need for recognition and reputation—materially as well.

S:      I don’t understand what difference it makes as long as the need is satisfied and the individual can turn to realizing the next-level need.

Q:      So, you are saying it would be okay for a person to be materially oriented in meeting each level of need in the hierarchy.

S:      Why not! As long as a person’s needs are met, he/she could progress to the next level of need toward self-actualization.

Q:      But when materially oriented—with no natural satiation point—an

individual can never quite obtain satisfaction; with no natural satiation point, a person would never feel that he/she has enough. Recall that the levels of need correspond with higher levels of concern, increasing levels of self-awareness, and the higher levels of human capability. With a material-based concern, attention remains at the lower level—in a sense, energy flow is blocked.

S:      This blocking of energy flow, would it be a form of pollution?

Q:      Yes, precisely. Blocked up energy diminishes the likelihood of development—it is detrimental to self-actualization, to the development of the human spirit.

S:      So how the need is met is as important as that the need is met?

Q:      Yes, especially when taking a long view…

And it is the long view that those in authority should be focused on.  Where and what will our business be in 5, 10 or 15 years?  What can we do to ensure we continue to have and develop ideas that will sustain the enterprise?

To this end, those in authority must realize that new business ideas are generally about serving the needs of others, not serving one’s self.  Therefore management mustn’t foster a culture where ‘what’s in it for Me’ colors all activity; where all meaning is expunged from the work of the enterprise.  Management in authority must create the workplace context wherein passion and commitment to uncovering new ideas reigns.  Where one’s work is a joy and not merely a job.  Leaders create a context that is conducive to a collaborative and entrepreneurial culture emerging, a self-actualizing system not a self-interest based culture.

Using money as the sole means to hiring and retaining people will lead to an organization eventually filled with the wrong people.  With the likely prospect of people feeling they never have enough, the insatiable want for more takes over.  Accordingly, running out of ideas will be the antecedent to the enterprise running out of business.  Don’t ever let money be the (sole) reason people remain a part of the enterprise.

2 thoughts on “A Lesson from Google

  1. Pingback: Growing Out of Capability « For Progress, Not Growth

  2. Pingback: Hidden Lessons in Leadership #29 « For Progress, Not Growth

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