Headline: Breakthrough study finds subjects do more tasks if they enjoy it and the quality of the work product differs greatly across subjects.  And in other news, water is in fact, wet.

The details of the study are a bit more interesting, if still obvious.


The scientists discovered major individual differences in preferences – reflecting differences in personality, motivation and cognitive abilities.   There were also seasonal and context effects on the key outcomes being studied.

If nothing else, the study showed the participants weren’t doing the task because they had to, they were doing it because they enjoyed it.


Here is the work product the subjects produced.  So a bunch of kids colored and some spent more time, got more elaborate and produced more intricate work?   Not exactly.  Kiki is ten, Molly is deceased but was about 55 at the time of this drawing.

They are also both orangutans.

Molly drew more than 1,000 pictures over her lifetime and that sample combined with hundreds of other orangutan drawings formed the dataset.

Molly was a bit of a Rembrandt, drawing more often, for longer and more intricately than any of her primate brethren.  What made her so different was the internal joy she got from drawing.  Her source of motivation was an eternal flame for output because it was high in quality and quantity.   And she got better at drawing the more she did, which is a flexing and growing her competence.

And her personality was the root of what made her different.  The other orangutans probably have skills or interests that match their personality.  And likely other tasks they enjoyed that made them appear less effortful.

All these differences in orangutan personality and motivation leading to far different outcomes.

If only there were some similar way to think about human beings.  If only we could harness that insight and tailor our outreach to match who they are in order to better connect, engage and fundraise in a mutually supportive way that created eternal flames of giving?

Dare to dream…Until then, keep em’ on the sausage factory, conveyor belt of sameness.

Kevin