The Golf Monkey and the Influencer

Recently I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to take the “Influencer” training by VitalSmarts. The two-day course and the book is highly recommended. The book describes very well how people can be influenced via Personal, Societal, and Structural means. (the book is also a very easy read and quite entertaining)

Of personal interest was the chapter on Structural motivations. Structural motivations are motivations that are created by things. The most common thing that has a motivating impact is of course compensation. The book is very careful to remind everyone that structural motivation should be the third type of motivation used as excessive use of structural motivation can have negative consequences. For example, although you think offering to pay your child to read books to encourage them is a great idea, it can create the impression that reading must be an activity that is unpleasant if people need to pay you to do it. Once the additional money is taken away, children will read less than they did before because of the impact that structural compensation had on them. (I’m certainly not going to read now if Dad is no longer going to pay me for it!) Although you intended the compensation as a way to encourage your child to read, it actually caused them to read less.

The Golf Monkey

I never expected to discover the Protegra Golf Monkey in the book though. But there on page 203 it was.

“Once again, if you’ve done your work with both personal and social motives, symbolic awards take on enormous value”

What is the Golf Monkey you ask? At Protegra, there are a group of employees that would go golfing very early Friday morning before work. One of our co-workers, Carl, donated the original Golf Monkey. I think Carl knew that the Golf Monkey could be a great force for good teams and bad golf.

The winner of that morning’s round had the honour to display the Golf Monkey in their office for a week. To encourage team building and social outings at Protegra we used the Structural motivation of the Golf Monkey. I would say more people were inclined to get up early and golf because of that Golf Monkey than if we awarded $20 for winning the round. I still remember teeing up on the 8th hole the first time I had a chance to win the Golf Monkey. I was jittery and nervous! I desperately wanted that Golf Monkey to display. A prize of $20 would never have made me feel that nervous.

Why? Because the Golf Monkey symbolized something more. It symbolized belonging to a community and status in the community.  It was also a fun way to allow community members to celebrate their community. And that fun encouraged other people to join and socialize with their co-workers.

So in a weird way that Golf Monkey did more to build community and friendship at work than many other things. Reading the Influencer book allowed me to reminisce and dream of spring…. and the Monkey…


Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

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