#EDU15: Daniel Pink shares how to deliver better student service


Daniel Pink delivered an excellent opening session this morning at the 2015 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference. It’s cloudy and raining outside, we’re in a dark, windowless room and he is tasked with talking about motivation. Tough gig.

We all have moments – like Monday mornings and Friday afternoons – when it feels difficult to get work done, but his presentation made me question myself. What motivates me? I thought about that a lot during his speech.

Daniel used studies to show it’s a proven fact that if-then rewards are only useful in cases when the tasks are “algorithmic,” rudimentary and simple. For example, if you’re tasked with stuffing envelopes, it’s helpful to pay people per envelope, as they will be rewarded for completing the task faster. If you need to stuff envelopes, then pay per envelope. It’s easy to figure out.

Inversely, if-then rewards are less productive when tasks are more complex and require a higher level of thinking.

Use simple tools to help accomplish complex tasks

That complexity is exactly what higher education organizations deal with every day. They are challenged to attract the best and brightest from a shrinking pool of students, provide a better education at a lower cost and graduate students in a timelier manner. At a conference full of great ideas and technology, enterprise content management (ECM) solutions fill this need almost perfectly.

Using workflow management, you can automate simple tasks like approvals and routing. This automation enables your staff to focus on complicated tasks that require more expertise than rudimentary work. And when you need a more comprehensive view of student content and data, case management software within ECM solutions provides a flexible platform to meet these needs, giving you a 360-degree view of student information.

Find your purpose

Daniel Pink claims the best motivator is a sense of purpose. By using the word “purpose,” he means the feeling of making a contribution; advancing the mission of the team, department and organization. Rudimentary work is taxing, boring and undesirable. By automating these tasks with workflow software, you free your staff to handle those more complex tasks and feel a higher sense of purpose. This empowers them to feel like they have contributed to the work of the department and organization by providing faster, more personalized and efficient student service.

After the presentation, I realized that when I think about ECM, I find my motivation. Every day, I help people work more efficiently to provide better service. It’s a wonderful feeling.

This contribution is a reminder of our value to our institutions and that we should spend our time on higher-value tasks that cannot be automated using technology. Surrounded by incredibly talented and motivated college and university leaders, I get the feeling we will leave this show riding a wave of new ideas and creativity.


Laurel Stiller

Laurel Stiller brings her passion for helping institutions strategically maximize their efficiency to Hyland as its marketing portfolio manager for Higher Education. A graduate of Miami University, Ohio, with more... read more about: Laurel Stiller

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