The importance of asking the right question

(I should acknowledge at the outset that this entry is a bit ‘nit-picky’.)

Yesterday I was at an event, which had a very positive vibe… apart from a couple of wee moments that niggled me. One was a deliberate, provocative act, which I didn’t think was necessary or helpful in the context. The second issue was a question that we were asked to discuss.

As I travelled back on the train, my mind kept going back to it. The question in question was:

What can we do to incentivise them?

I think it was clumsy. Firstly – and pedantically – ‘incentivise’ is  an inelegant word. I know this is a matter of taste, but does it really need to be a verb? Secondly, the question infers a ‘them/us’ situation, when we were talking about collaborative opportunities. Clumsy!

More importantly, the question has an underlying assumption that I am reluctant to accept. To assert that ‘incentivisation’ is necessary, implies that actions are only the result of a reward. That is, some form of extrinsic motivation is required to achieve the desired response. Presumably, if incentives are required to stimulate action, ongoing incentives are required to sustain action.

What about looking for intrinsic motivation? What about exploring how the desired collaboration might be achieved through encouragement; explanation; clarifying desired outcomes based on agreed values? What about giving people the credit for ‘giving a damn’?

What about being more careful and thoughtful about the way we ask questions?

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