The Power of “Why”

Whether you’re managing a team of employees or you’re working on your own, remember, it’s the “why” that provides real motivation to succeed.

The Backstory:

An experiment conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business demonstrates the power of “why”. The experiment was conducted in 2011, but the lessons from the study are more pertinent now than ever as we begin to consider what the new workplace norm looks like, and where we most want to focus our time and efforts.

The Experiment:

At a university call center where employees phone alumni to solicit contributions to scholarship funds, the staff was randomly divided into three groups. The first group read stories written by former call center employees about the benefits of the job, such as improved communication and sales skills. The second group read accounts from
former students about how their scholarships helped them with their education, careers, and lives. The third, a control group, read nothing.

The Results:

In measuring the results of the three teams after a month, researchers found that the first group and the third group raised roughly the same amount of money from alumni. But callers in the second group, who had read inspirational stories about the impact of the scholarships they were raising funds for, raised twice as much money from twice as many alumni.

The Lesson:

Understanding the importance of their work, the “why,” apparently motivated the second group and improved results. How can you apply that to your current workflow? What is your why?


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