In a famous study conducted by Behavioral Scientist Dan Ariely, he had college students assemble Bionics. For the uninitiated Bionics is something akin to an action figure made out of LEGO.
The crux of the experiment however had to do with what happened immediately after the students had assembled the Bionics.
In one part of the experiment Ariely had his assistant researchers take them apart and put them back in the box immediately after the end of the experiment.
In another part of the experiment Ariely displayed the Bionics in full view, thus providing meaning to the work.
The interesting part however is this: in each of the experiments Ariely asked how much money the students required to assemble another one. The answer – unsurprisingly – came in a lot higher for the students where work was considered to be meaningless.
There are a few important points we can discern about human nature based on this experiment. First and foremost, human beings are happier when their work is meaningful. One might go so far as to say that meaning is the primary driver of the happiness we derive from our work.
Secondly it is interesting to note that we are willing to forego happiness if the pay is large enough. The reason that this is interesting is that when we know this about ourselves we can calibrate our decisions accordingly and use it to become better versions of ourselves.
I don’t know about you, but to me – the cost of being unhappy and doing meaningless work is too high no matter what you pay me.