Learning

What is your Motivation?

I find Ted talks to be very interesting. Over the last few years, I have listened to one almost every night before bed. As a technologist who likes to solve hard problems this last one I listened to had a big impact on me. I think you should take a few minutes and listen.

I have seen the problem of wrong incentives play out so many different times over the years. I think one of the biggest “if-thens” in the software world is the “Deadline”. It is a great demonstration of the disconnect of motivation between management and developers.

The biggest issue is the pressure presented by pushing a deadline over other things when it comes to building software. The reality of the world is that we do need to deliver working software on time. This software needs to both solve the business problem as well as be easy to use. The issue here is just like the candle problem presented in the talk, often the solutions to the problems we are solving are not clear.

I think this is where the statement he makes (There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.) comes into play. The goal is to deliver amazing software on time. How businesses trying to do this is to always talk about and drive home the deadline. This builds a high-pressure environment always focusing on the reward of meeting the deadline. What people don’t realize is that this is causing a slow down in the development cycle. It does not result in the developers working any faster. The developers on a project under this deadline pressure look just like people solving the candle problem for the highest reward.

What is the solution to this problem? I think that his new operation system below is perfect motivation for developers to deliver high quality and world-changing software.

  • Autonomy
  • Master
  • Purpose

I think we could write a whole book about these three points. O wait Dan did (Click Here) so if you are interested in the details you should check it out. I will say though that if software groups offered their developers more autonomy, the ability to master domains and gave them a higher purpose we would have better software and happier developers around the world.


We also used this as part of a breakfast and learn I lead at my company and I think these questions could help process through the content of this video.

  • How do you think you would have solved the candle problem?
  • Do you see the mismatch between what science knows and what business does?
  • Would the money have motivated you?
  • Have you ever seen “if -then” rewards working or not working in your career?
  • What kind of work do you think you are working on with your project? (Clear set of rules or mystifying solution)
  • Do you feel like in your projects there are wrong incentives setup?
  • Would this hackathon concept (FEDEX Days) work for your company?
  • What are your thoughts on the Wiki example?
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