Green Beans and Ice Cream: The Remarkable Power of Positive Reinforcement by Bill Sims, Jr. explains that people appreciate recognition and praise more than a paycheck. Although remuneration is important, people appreciate positive reinforcements from the boss, as well as peers. In this way they derive the highest level of satisfaction, while on-the-job performance levels increase.
Sims explains that you can’t punish a team into winning. A winning formula includes positive reinforcement upon the achievement of key milestones. Negative reinforcement and punishments may produce temporary adherence to rules until the boss steps away. Intrinsic motivation drives people to do things whether or not a reward is involved. The book explains that good performance should be commended; otherwise, employees may look elsewhere.
Sims provides examples of how positive reinforcement changes the appearance of the brain on an MRI machine. The best reinforcers, according to Sims, are commendations from the boss followed by peer recognition. The worst reinforcers are gifts that people can’t use and pizza parties.
The beauty of positive reinforcement is that it works everywhere, especially overseas. The author explains that workers in other countries receive very few, if any, compliments from bosses. Sims found that complimenting these workers for their work was received very well because it’s hardly ever done in the bureaucratic cultures elsewhere.
Sims provides specific examples of positive reinforcement in action in the workplace. A prime example is seen in the use of pink Cadillacs to motivate top salespeople at Mary Kay. A corollary is that feedback plus autonomy are the keys to more dramatic increments in work performance.
The book traces the various progressions of employee resistance: from worker inability to do a task, to outright non-compliance, to compliance, and finally to employee commitment and engagement to do a task voluntarily.
Green Beans and Ice Cream is an important and insightful work which focuses on how to motivate employees beyond the classic steps involved in Maslowe’s hierarchy of needs. Maslowe’s hierarchy of needs begins with basic physiological needs and progresses in a stepladder fashion to self-actualization in achieving fullest potential.
Sims adds validity to his claims and provides individual testimonies of workers and companies at the book’s website.