The $100 Hypothetical

As my home state emerges from lockdown, I reflect over the many months of confusion during the pandemic.

My fellow citizens were confounded by brain benders such as whether to wear a mask inside a ride-share vehicle; what qualifies as an “essential” item; and when one may travel beyond 5km from home.

No confusion over the Dine & Discover voucher scheme, however, whereby residents apply for $100 worth of credit to fund eligible recreation activities. As a populace, we nailed that one.

It is – by definition – an exemplar of the $100 Hypothetical.

Two Australian $50 notes on a table.

The $100 Hypothetical is best explained by way of contrast.

In the context of corporate learning & development, consider the employee who complains of being overwhelmed by the number of search results returned by the online course library, yet happily uses Google which returns billions of results.

Who never posts messages to the corporate ESN, but avidly posts to Facebook; who never records a knowledge sharing video, yet uploads selfies to TikTok or Instagram with abandon; who refuses to use a software program until they’ve been formally trained in it, but jumps headfirst into a new app, phone or video game without ever crinkling the user manual.

The $100 Hypothetical holds that the same employee would readily find a relevant course in the online library …if they received $100 for doing so.

Similarly, they’d post plenty of messages to the corporate ESN, record loads of knowledge sharing videos, and find out how to do various tasks with the software …if each time they received a couple of pineapples.

The alternative

The $100 Hypothetical makes the point that whenever people don’t do something, it’s often not because they can’t, but because they won’t.

Which begs the question: Why not?

Well I’m not aware of anyone attending a course prior to using the likes of Google, Facebook, TikTok or Insta, so a lack of training evidently isn’t always a barrier to action. There must be other reasons; perhaps shyness, fear, laziness, apathy, pride, or myriad other human foibles.

Yet while it’s tempting to decry the poor attitudes of our colleagues, it’s important to recognise the common denominator: value.

They use Google because it connects them to the information they need. They post to Facebook because it enriches their relationship with friends and family. They upload selfies to TikTok or Insta because it’s fun or it boosts their ego. They figure out apps, phones and video games on the fly because they want to experience them immediately.

But they don’t perceive the value in pursuing similar activities at work.

If the theory of the $100 Hypothetical maintains the introduction of a financial reward would tip the balance in favour of action, the practice must be to supply an alternative source of value in the absence of direct cash.

In other words, what would motivate them to do it if they didn’t receive $100 for doing so?

6 thoughts on “The $100 Hypothetical

  1. Hi Ryan. Yet another very interesting article.

    While I agree with the sentiment of what you’re saying, I suggest that it’s not just value but maybe it’s a risk-reward judgement?

    I post here because I trust you, and the other readers, to be mainly supportive, or at least considerate with criticism. There’s no real downside to me sharing my rambling thoughts. I don’t think that’s always the same at work where there’s often a downside to being disagreed with or seen as disagreeing. ESNs that are only full of supporting fluff comments are tiresome, so instead they tend to be tumbleweed.

    Even I, somebody who’s probably a bit too keen to share his thoughts
    at times, tempers my public sharing at work. I try really hard not to shoot down ideas in public, even when I have constructive criticism, because it’s so easy to be perceived as negative. There is often much more risk in commenting than reward.

    People don’t need a course on how to use Yammer, or whatever UGC channels there are. What they need is psychological safety and an environment where everybody values criticism as well as praise. Then, and only then, will they try and claim their free pineapples.

  2. Thanks for commenting David, your insights are always welcome.

    Risk-reward judgement might be a better way to put it. Psychological safety is a real issue in the workplace (including those that think of themselves as non-hierarchical – lol!). Once bitten, 2,000 times shy.

    I once saw the CEO of a company post a chastising reply to an employee’s post on the ESN; well, that’s a very good way of shutting down open and honest communication, not only by that employee but by everyone else who saw it.

  3. I like your ramblings Ryan.

    We all do things for different reasons. You need to examine the individual behaviour and to understand their motivation.

    One of my staff member wouldn’t go the extra mile or try because they didn’t want to fail and look stupid. When we got down to it we found that hey thought they would get sacked. Therefore I failed them because I didn’t know what motivated them and what scared them.
    We need to understand the individual so that we can work with them to give them the confidence to use platforms that will aid them and the organisation.

    Just another viewpoint.

  4. Another viewpoint indeed, but not mutually exclusive with my lens of value nor David’s lens of risk-reward judgement. We’re all saying the same thing in different ways.

    Thanks for sharing Ivan, and also for your kind words about my ramblings!

  5. In agreement with the above comments. In searching Google, adding to FB, TT etc, there is no “performance review”. No judgement (generally, apart from some possible online trolls).
    The workplace is not a safe place for many. Therefore, the risk of looking foolish and the reinforcement of that by a poor or incompetent leader, (not the same thing) heightens the risk.

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