This week marks the 6th anniversary of my blog Black Looks. I was trying to think of what to write this week for New Internationalist when I came across a motivational video on one of Africa's top techie blogs, White African. Essentially the video went through the traditional 'motivators' - performance for stars in school and performance for cash at work.
However, a group of top economists were commissioned by the US Federal Reserve to carry out research on behaviour and reward. It was discovered that the 'star' system was more complex. As long as the tasks were strictly mechanical then the more reward the harder one worked. But when it came to using cognitive skills it was the opposite - a larger reward led to a poorer performance. Very strange - I wondered whether all the city bankers and brokers work on this principle. Then again, maybe I am presuming their jobs require cognitive skill!
Suprised at the result, the team decided to go to India and carry out the experiment there with rewards from small to large based on regular, medium and exceptional performance. What they found was that although the first two groups did the same, the third group - who were to receive the highest award - actually did worse. In other words, the more complicated and conceptual the task the less likely that the 'star reward' system will act as a motivator.
What does lead to better performance - and this goes for private sector, public sector and the non-profit sector - are: autonomy, purpose and mastery. By now you may be wondering where I am going with this and what's my point. The video made me think of my own motivation, for example in writing these weekly blog posts for New Internationalist. If I work out the hours it often takes me to write the 700/800 words, the monetary reward is relatively low. So why bother? Because I am motivated by autonomy - I can choose what I write about, what I consider important in any given week; my purpose in writing is to share the information and opinion which I think is important and third, I honestly believe that New Internationalist is an excellent informative magazine, which I regularly read and would ask others to read. Which brings me to how I have managed to keep my own blog going for six years. Writing/posting between three and six times a week, that makes 2,322 posts in all. What has kept me writing?
First, I write what I like. Second, I believe what I write is important and and informative. Third, I feel I am part of a number of overlapping communities of bloggers, techies and activists. There have been many, many times when I have felt like ending - or even deleting - the whole blog, but this would be like ending an intimate relationship. My blog has become more than simply an online space - it is the one stable home I have had, my close friend, whom I fight with from time to time but always make up with and to whom I always return. I wonder how long I will continue blogging - how long blogging will continue. Today there are millions more blogs than six years ago. The Nigerian/African blogosphere is huge compared with 2004. It is becoming increasingly difficult to read all but a few blogs, so I am sure my blog has also been affected in that way. Twitter is the easy, lazy blogger tool and I use it extensively. But at the same time it has made me more conscious of the need to keep blogging. Tweets are lost after a day - blog posts are there for ever - or as long as you want them to be there. I leave mine to my grandchildren who are yet to be born.