The Winning Lottery Ticket of Commitment

constructive culture

by Melody Stacy


There’s a famous experiment about lottery tickets that has some pretty significant implications for leaders interested in building commitment in their teams.

It went like this: Researchers formed two groups of people to participate in a lottery. One group’s tickets were pre-printed with random numbers. The other group received blank tickets so they could write their own.

Right before the winning ticket was drawn, researchers asked if they could buy back the tickets.

Knowledge of basic probability leads to the logical conclusion that there shouldn’t be a difference in the value of each group’s tickets. We could even convince ourselves that the random tickets might be of higher value since we’re assured of no duplicate numbers.

The reality? No matter when or with whom the experiment was run, time and time again the researchers found themselves paying five times the amount for the tickets from the group who had chosen their numbers.

People commit to what they own.

Like the people who literally wrote their own tickets, we can boost the commitment of our teams by creating opportunities for co-creation and ownership.

Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement. - Daniel Pink

An easy first step might be to ask ourselves where our current level of commitment is. Do our team members feel our culture encourages ownership? Where are we on the compliance to commitment spectrum?

Once we’ve gathered the necessary feedback and reflections, a next step may be to increase our intentionality around building commitment toward a current goal.

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. - Lao Tzu

Lottery-level commitment boosters

🎈 Float the Balloon
Have an idea or seeking a solution to a problem? Try floating it to team members by asking them what they think in individual, informal settings. We can gain valuable insights and build in big and small ways for others to engage in the process, even while we’re walking around during morning arrival.

Sometimes we find the balloon deflates and sinks to the ground quickly. Other times we see the balloon grow and fly to new heights. Either way, we will end in a better place having created multiple opportunities for nurturing commitment.

🤩 Plugging In Our Genius
While it’s a great start to know our team members’ strengths, the magic happens when we can strategically enlist the genius of others. Knowing where we are in the process and then matching someone’s strengths to fit that need is an awesome opportunity to energize them by plugging in their genius to amplify our collective impact.

🤝 Flatten the Hierarchy
When we retain control as the leader with a top-down mindset, not only do we inject mediocrity but we run the risk of breaking down trust through inauthenticity. Distributing leadership is about giving away control and then believing in and building the leadership capacity of every member of our team. When we do this, it’s a clear invitation for others to invest in and help execute the plan.

This approach may very well take longer. But with a five-fold gain in commitment, creating opportunities for building ownership is worth it.


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