Case in point: Today's HBR "The Daily Stat", which features the following attention-grabbing headline:
Do You Work Until You've Earned Enough, or Until You're Just Too Tired to Work More?
As a compensation professional (just suspend your belief for a moment and pretend we're not all buried in program planning and review for 2014), you are driven to click over and learn more about these purported discoveries on our motivation as wage-earners and our drive to make more money. Only to discover that the University of Chicago research team behind this headline is drawing conclusions about pay and earnings levels, even work-life balance, from a study involving chocolate consumption.
Similar concerns about reward-related research and statistics have been raised before. Over at the Compensation Cafe, my colleague Dan Walter recently wrote about the growing power of statistics in our lives, noting how easily (and often) they are distorted to seem as though they are telling an important story or yielding new insights. Guest author Gerry Ledford called our attention to the dangers of putting too much faith in "truths" that stem from research findings manufactured in a lab setting that may (and often do) disappear in real-world conditions. And I wrote a post myself warning about our tendency to over-value academic research and knowledge and under-value our own capacity for experiential learning.
My objective here isn't to discourage us from being enthusiastic consumers of reward-related research, but simply to call out this particular example as evidence of why it is critical to bring some care and discernment to that consumption. Not all reward research is created equal, in terms of its applicability to real world compensation work and decisions.
Chocolate and compensation: Both good, but not the same.
Creative Commons image "Chocolate" by John Loo