Food as Motivation for Geeks

In the CPA Australia magazine for May 2003, there is a big section on managing the geeks. Geeks are usually powering the whole IT infrastructure of an enterprise, and as a manager it is important to keep them and utilise their abilities to best advantage. The whole article is very interesting, and it invited some experts to talk about their experiences with managing geeks. As a geek myself, I have to agree with many of them.

However, there is one little insert that really caught my eyes. It titled "Snack Power", and it reads:

"I can't offer any rational explanation," says Glen (a management consultant in the article), "but for geeks, free food is a major motivation - far more than an equivalent amount of cash. It may be due to the long hours or to some primitive instinct related to feeding together, but if you occasionally fill the office with soft drinks, snacks, pizza and beer, the productivity boost far exceeds the cost. However, if you always have free food around, it seems to lose its motivational value. Geeks start to view it as a fundamental human right rather than a motivational perk."

How true is that! Food - it always works in our office. We have lunch together every two weeks, and it is usually the "management" that pays the bill. Everyone enjoyed it. I guess it is more than the free food, but also a time where everyone can sit down and talk about things other than work. Our eyes usually stick to the monitor from the time we step into the office, until the time we step out. There isn't much interaction between developers as everyone is working busily on their own projects. A common not-so-frequent lunch time with free food can certainly help geeks to communicate better (especially mixed with sales and support people).

Update 2004-04-01: Here's the link to the article.