Carrots and Sticks Don't Work for Knowledge Work!

When it comes to motivation, what science knows, and what business does are two different things. The science is pretty clear that for cognitive tasks higher rewards do not produce better results, in fact they produce worse results.

Dan Pink provides a very entertaining presentation at a TEDtalk on how motivation works. The ideas are not new, Abraham Maslow may have been one of the first to study what motivates people to do better, the well known Hawthorne plant studies, the best selling In Search of Excellence book, even the recent publication of the 4 Hour Work Week have all come to the conclusions that external rewards are not enough to truly motivate people

In fact, for cognitive skills that require creative solutions rather than repetitive solutions, external rewards have the negative impact of narrowing focus and degrading the solutions.

Why then, do so many business and government go to a system of competitive bidding based largely on price?Why do firms offer significant financial bonuses to high performers?

Google has found that over 50% of its new products come from the 20% of time they ask their engineers to allocate to personal projects that are not company sanctioned. The Lockheed Skunk Works has produced some of the most innovative aircraft in history in production times that are unmatched.

What does RKIL stand for?

Over the years the question has been asked quite a few times, and like any good name, there is a story behind it.

A number of years ago while with Up & Running (an Ottawa Mac based reseller that I sold my shares in 1991), we were looking at buying a company. It has some people, locations and agreements that we were very interested in. During negotiations our lawyer was quite adamant that he thought it was not a good match for us. After a few hours of discussions he used the phrase, "guys, the company is road kill".

He was right, so we did not buy the company, however the name stuck. When we formed byDesign in 1991 we used Road Kill International Limited as the cover name for the new company, and when we split up byDesign in 1994, I modified the name to Road Kill Infomatics Ltd for the development arm that I took over.

Those three balls?

The RKIL logo has a juggler with three balls in the air, and we have been asked more if there is some symbolism for those balls?


When RKIL was formed in 1994 as a spin out from byDesign for software design and development, we were looking for a logo that would explain what RKIL was all about. The first choice was Moof, the cow/dog that was famous from its placement by Apple in their printer dialog boxes, which adopted by Mac developers under the name Clarus as a poke at Apple's Claris software division. We gave it an RKIL spin, by inverting her and giving her an information super highway make over.


We switched to the first variation of the juggler after early in 1996, when the three balls represented Macintosh, Windows and UNIX, our three development targets. The colored version was red for Apple, blue for IBM and yellow for HP.

We have had friends and clients send us variations on the logos which include moving balls, 10 balls, and the humpty dumpty version with the broken balls on the ground.

What we prefer to think of the balls now are the the axis of project management, time, budget and deliverables. As the old project joke goes, pick two.

Window 7 - How the desktop world has changed


With Microsoft's release of Windows 7 and Apple's Release of OS 10.6 the world of personal computers has slipped quietly into a new era.

On the shelf beside my desk are a series of disk recovery utilities that were once a key part of my kit. System crashes and the need to completely rebuild a disk or server were a regular part of what was required to be in the business. I have not needed to update those utilities in years, because the systems have been so stable.

It was not that long ago that the regular system backup was used every couple of months to restore a system. Now those backups have to be explicitly tested because the combination of better disk technologies and much more stable operating systems have meant that system backups are needed, but seldom used.

Knock on wood.

Cloud Computing in Trouble?

It has been a tough couple of weeks for "Cloud computing".

Larry Ellisson from Oracle hates cloud computing, or at least the term.

Users of the Sidekick lost all their personal data from the phones stored in the Cloud. Gmail was out for a couple of hours. Twitter was out for a an hour, at least to for anyone you followed. Facebook users were locked out from their accounts.

When users become dependent on access to their data in the cloud, it is a big problem when it is not there. 

I realized this morning that in the container under my notebook were some disk recovery tools that I have not had to use since 2000 when disk loss was a monthly concern.

The loss of data is still a concern, the causes have changed.