Why We Work Summary – March 2022

Author: Barry Schwartz

Short Summary
Why We Work (2015) by Barry Schwartz is a different kind of book. One that attempts to address the question any of us may have asked ourselves: why do we work? It does this by looking at the purpose of work in our lives. It examines how different people view their work, what traits make work feel meaningful, and which questions companies should ask to maximize the motivation of their employees. In an age where technology allows workers to be more productive, employers need to understand how motivations operate, and how this can help support greater engagement with their workforce.
why we work
Source: amazon.com

Detailed Summary

When someone asks you, “why do you work?”, what do you say? Maybe you say something about the paycheck or you talk about your hobbies. You might talk about how it helps you feel productive or how it helps you feel like you are “making a difference”. Most of the time, we don’t give a real answer to this question, but why? We do this because we assume that we are not supposed to say “money”. We assume we aren’t supposed to say that money is the only thing we care about. But it turns out that there is nothing wrong with being motivated or even obsessed with money.

Opening the book motivates readers to find answers to the following questions: How do I motivate myself to do something I don’t feel like doing? How do I create competition within myself? How can I make people not call me lazy?

Readers will learn the tricks from a top expert in motivation, Barry Schwartz, and will find out that most of the things they have been told about motivation by their parents and teachers were completely wrong. The author of The paradox of choice argues that we always ask the wrong questions to lead those, who make great products and services a reality. The incentives are wrong because rather than focusing on creating things that are well-designed, simple, and easy to use, we turn every product into a tool for our self-expression.

When we ask the wrong questions, it’s not “how important is this thing I’m doing?” but “how well am I doing it?” instead. With these incentives and questions in place, workers have to worry about their job security, rather than their job quality. Why We Work seeks to solve these problems by pointing out what goals we should work toward and how we should focus on our motivations as a society. It offers a set of questions that managers can use to focus on the meaningful nature of their employee’s work.

Why We Work Key Points

Ask yourself three questions: either your work is your job, a career, or a calling

I came across this question a few weeks ago and it got me thinking: Are you passionate about your career? The level of energy and enthusiasm with which you go about your work is what ultimately determines if you’re doing what you love, if you’re working on a hobby, or if your work is considered a job. But how do you know the difference? This is when it becomes important to ask yourself the right questions.

A job is what you have to do to earn a living. Your job is usually something that you’re not passionate about, but it pays your bills. A career is something you’ve spent a lifetime working toward; if you’re lucky, you love your career. A calling is a vocation or a life’s work that rises above the ordinary. A calling is doing your life’s creative work in service of something greater than yourself. In its most eloquent form, a calling is about being rather than having.

We can see the way people answer these questions is also correlated to their overall happiness at work. While everyone wants to be happy at work, scientists have discovered that those who perceive their work as a calling are happier than those who believe their work is just a job.

Autonomy, investment, and a mission keep employees motivated

Schwartz is a firm believer in the model of the company. He said, business is not just dollars and cents, but also a model and it depends on how the model is built. Schwartz said that his firm has a clearly defined purpose of what they do. He believes business is not just about making money, but also about making sure that people are happy and that their jobs are beneficial and meaningful for them.

Let’s understand his insights using the core of a tree. This core is where the roots originate from, and it is from these roots that the branches and leaves sprout from. The core is everything that happens after the first dollar has been earned. His clients question his firm’s purpose at all times, prompting Schwartz to ask them – “what’s your business about?”. Working on purpose helps Schwartz’s firm to keep its clients motivated and engaged. They are always trying to figure out ways to make their business work better for their clients’ customers and themselves.

Autonomy – the freedom to do what you think is the best for the company despite the orders from the top. Investment – sharing ideas about how the company can be improved, for example, providing new products or services, changing the internal processes, and so on. Mission – the desire to make a difference and be part of something bigger than yourself.

Raises at bad reasons to motivate people towards work

The largest problem with using money to motivate people is that it just doesn’t work. I mean, it does work for a handful of people, but not for the majority. If you’re reading this, chances are that you haven’t been driven by monetary incentives yourself and if you have, let me ask you a question: did they work? Did you do the work?

Did you do the work because you got paid well? Or was it more of a distraction to something else than anything else?

See the problem is that when the money stops serving its only true purpose – to make sure we have food and shelter – and starts to become a motivation, it introduces all sorts of negative aspects that do nothing but take away from value creation.

The secret is: Raises are HUGELY overrated. Yes, raises are great. It’s really good to get them. But they’re not great long-term. They can be really bad for you. If you are working a job and you’re being paid to do something, your quality of work is probably motivated more by your attachment to the job and the intrinsic benefits of the job, rather than just getting paychecks.

Why We Work Quotes

“To be satisfied with our work, we typically need a belief in the purpose of what we do.” Barry Schwartz

“If we design workplaces that permit people to find meaning in their work, we will be designing a human nature that values work.” Barry Schwartz

Why We Work Review

Why We Work is a short but concise book and it is to accompany the author’s one of TED talks. It is a good book for people having responsibilities. If you are a hardworking leader or a job person. Have a look at this.

To whom I would recommend the Why We Work summary?

  • A person who is going to start his first job and is motivated for his journey.
  • A manager who manages his employees with strict rules and discipline.
  • Anyone who is struggling for a better future.

Link: https://amzn.to/3zcjAQh