Seek and You Shall Find
Posted on August 21, 2018 by Phil Elworth
Seeking Systems are a part our brain that create natural impulses to explore our world; learn about our environment; and extract meaning from our circumstances and relationships, this is according to Daniel M. Cable in his book Alive at Work. The Seeking System encourages us to find new hobbies and seek out new skills; all because they are of interest to us. The process of activating our Seeking System will ignite our passion and our sense of purpose, which in turn fuels our desire to succeed. According to Daniel, this is the way we were wired to live and to work; to explore, experiment and learn. So, do you feel like exploring, experimenting and learning at work? Are you able to do so? Are your employees able to do so? If not, you are losing a lot of productivity.
In his book Daniel draws from an example of an on-boarding process that Wipro uses. When a new group of employees comes on board a senior executive comes into their meeting room and discusses why Wipro is a great company, that working at Wipro gives you the chance to express yourself. After sharing his personal story of working at Wipro he then asked the new hires to answer in writing the following question: “what is unique about you that leads to your happiest times and best performance at work? Reflect on a specific time-perhaps on a job, perhaps at home-when you were acting the way you were ‘born to act.” He then had each of them introduce themselves to each other by introducing their best self. Afterwards each employee was given a small customized gift to remind them of this event. The new employee felt that after the event everyone around them knew a lot about him and vice versa.
What is interesting about this company, is that they did a study where they broke new employees into different groups, one group received the treatment in the above paragraph the second group received a more normal onboarding process where the senior leader talked about how good the company was, the values of the company then asked the new employees to reflect on these values and discuss with each other. Afterwards they too received a token gift but it was more generic and not personalized.
A third group was onboarded with a more traditional skills training process and less about values and nothing about personal best self.
After six months of tracking the performance of the three groups they found that the best self-group had outperformed the other groups and showed an improved retention rate of 32%
Onboarding processes are normally stressful for new employees, so by doing a best self-exercise like this Wipro had exercised what psychologists call a wise intervention. This is when you do something new and small but has a disproportionately large effect because if fixes something, onboarding, that makes people feel emotionally vulnerable. Thus, the new employees are set up for success when they start working.
If you want to separate yourself from your competition then think through how you can set people up for success and engage their seeking system. It does not have to be just when they start, you can start this process at any time. You want to help your employees to engage their Seeking Systems because this will make them happier employees and normally happier employees are more successful.
The concept of Seeking is an intrinsic urge to explore and thus is rewarded by the discovery. This is very different from our normal reward system; which is extrinsic in nature and based upon action. While rewards happen after a behavioral event, Seeking happens before, but the beauty of Seeking is that it never runs out. According to Mr. Cable, who is a Social Psychologist, when we are encouraged to operate using our Seeking System (best self) we are actually happier. The flip side of this if we are not allowed to operate in this mode, we grow resigned to our circumstances and thus become less motivated. Inspiration comes from this inner Seeking mode and inspiration leads to success.
So, what normally stops us from moving into a Seeking mode at work; FEAR. The boundaries of our life are defined by our fear. If we can learn to move through our fear then the world opens up to us.
To help you understand what sparks your Seeking mode, do the exercise defined above. Test the theory, see if it helps you unleash your passion and drive, then introduce it to your employees.