Say Thank You.

The simplest way to dramatically improve your productivity

Small financial incentives can motivate people to a degree, but large ones don't work as well, and they often create behaviours you really don't want. But researchers have found something else that improves productivity dramatically, and it's the simplest thing in the world to do.

Running time: 02:41

Key Points:

In a famous research study, Dan Ariely's team gave three groups of people the same task - to highlight pairs of letters in a random stream of text. Each time they completed the task, they were offered slightly less money to do it again, but the way their completed work was handled had a dramatic affect on how long they stuck at it, and how low they were prepared to go on their wages.

One group had their work shredded in front of their eyes, without it even being looked at. They stopped first, as you'd expect. One group had their work briefly acknowledged then put on a pile. They continued with the task until their wage was amost half that at which the "shredded" group had quit. The third group's work was neither acknowledged, nor shredded, but simply put on a pile. Surprisingly, they dropped out of the experiment almost at the same time as the group who's work was shredded.

The conclusion: if you accept someone's work without acknowledging their effort, you might amost as well shred it in front of their eyes. But a simple thank you can encourage someone to be twice as productive at the very same work. So the next time you think about incentivising your people to improve their productivity, try saying thanks.