Episode #1006 Barry Schwartz: Why We Work

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Moe and Barry Schwartz talk about how work operates in our culture and how you can find your own path to happiness in the workplace.


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Barry Schwartz

Professor of Psychology at Swarthmore View Full Profile

Why We Work?

Walk the aisles of any Container Store, and you’ll not only find unique products and great value most importantly, you’ll find yourself interacting with a superb sales staff that truly appreciates serving you.  For a retail outlet, The Container Store is indeed an outlier; and their results continue to prove it year in, year out.  Ask co-founder, Kip Tindell what makes his retail empire so special, and you’re likely to hear him shout out the phrase, it’s “our yummy culture.”   

As one of their Foundation Principles, Tindell and his leadership team believe that one great person is equal to three good people.  And, like any world-class organization or sports franchise, Tindell’s team  “never loses sight of the fact that {their} success stems directly from {their} enthusiastic and highly motivated employees.  {Their} turnover rate is less than 10 percent in a retail industry that averages about 100 percent, and {they} get thousands and thousands of job inquiries but only hire about 3 percent of all applicants.”   It’s no accident that they’ve been named to Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work for fifteen years straight, and why the average sales person earns in excess of $50,000; more than double the industry average.  Who would have thought that selling empty boxes would ignite such greatness in people?

Having interviewed Kip Tindell, I wasn’t surprised when I heard Barry Schwartz reference The Container Store as a place where people find immense fulfillment and satisfaction doing what many believe to be ‘menial’ work.  In his timely TED book, Why We Work, the always engaging Schwartz takes us on a journey of discovery to learn why for the overwhelming majority of people, work falls short.  What you’re about to hear may not surprise you, because it’s more likely to challenge you to get serious about why you get up in the morning.  

Here are a few of the question we discuss: