Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Motivation 3.0

After reading the Talent-book by Jeoff Colvin I had a hole in my mind that needed filling. Why does a person embark on a grueling adventure of deliberate practice? What drives you to excel? Poof! (Somehow the poofing got into my writing, but I can’t fathom why…) In came the Drive, a book by Daniel H. Pink about motivation. Mr. Colvin was quite vague about motivation (or the focus was more on what and how instead of why) so I made a decision to skip the motivation part and go deeper in a future post.

Now that I have read (and somewhat understood) the Drive I feel like I can make a contribution and share some of the secrets about “what motivates us”. The deliberate practice (of which mr. Pink also talks in his book) is fuelled by motivation: If we really want to do something, we can do it. “But why?” Hold on, I’ll share some of what I have learned. (This is not a book review but interpretation about motivation using the book as guide.)

A little history about motivation: When we were cavemen, Neanderthals or Finnish ski-jumpers, we had a drive (the book calls it Motivation 1.0). That was the need to feed, drink and f…. reproduce – the drive to survive. “Hey look! we survived!” And that motivation served us to get by, to fight cougars and wolverines, to eat nutritious food. But as humans developed the Motivation 1.0 did not serve us properly; we needed something more to motivate us. We needed upgrade to the Motivation 1.0 to motivate us to do our job. The second basic drive that motivates us is the extrinsic motivators: rewards and punishment, carrot and stick, etc. The book calls it Motivation 2.0; the upgraded way to operate and motivate us. It served us well with basic-straightforward –repetitive tasks like assembly line or the like. The system awarded us from good behavior and punished us from bad behavior. The managers of that time thought they could use incentives like bonuses to motivate people to do their bidding. And people did… when their jobs were “basic-straightforward –repetitive”. Nowadays the menial tasks have been automated and people are moving towards problem solving, innovative, creative jobs that are hard if not impossible to automate. The Motivation 2.0 doesn’t support that kind of work. In fact it may result in unwanted behavior and to diminish the wanted behavior. And how many managers and companies have seen this?

The DRIVE introduces a third drive that is called Motivation 3.0. It is the intrinsic motivation that we all have. A person that responds to intrinsic motivation may not respond well to extrinsic motivation. The book uses example from children’s play.

If a group of children are asked to paint or draw, they all draw. Kids love painting! But then half of the children are told that they can get a reward from drawing. What happens is that they all draw for a moment but the rewarded children are less likely to continue drawing after they get the reward as the children that were not awarded continue drawing like they used to. The award turns play into work. And that de-motivates us.

There are however some ways to get “carrot and stick” working to increase out motivation. The “if-then” reward may cause a moment’s burst in motivation and efficiency but they are prone to do down very quickly. “If-then” reward may lead into addiction (as in “I won’t do the same task for the same money anymore” or “I want TWO candies to take out the trash”) or suppress the wanted behavior. When used as a “now that” award it can sometimes encourage a person to create an intrinsic motivation to reach the possible award. For example an Olympic runner has a set of goals (to beat personal best, country top ten, etc.) instead of just one; the Olympic gold medal. They may try to reach that goal but they aren’t looking the medals as “If-then” but “now that” reward. The same drive, well, drives us forward in our work and personal life. We tend to seek goals that are fuelled by intrinsic motivation and steer away from extrinsic motivation (or at least most of us do). In most of us there is both kind of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic, but what makes us most tick is the inner drive to accomplish something, not what others want or tell us to be.

Daniel H. Pink has studied the field of human motivation and cites numerous studies from psychology and economics in his book. He has narrowed down the intrinsic motivation into three main elements that make the intrinsic motivation work: Autonomy, mastery and purpose. Those are not elements that Motivation2.0 willingly supports or acknowledges.


We people have the need for autonomy, need to be free. Nobody WANTS to be… ermmm….. not-free. The managerial style that supports extrinsic motivation focuses on compliance (“Do as you are told”). Instead the intrinsic motivation focuses on engagement. With autonomy people are able to engage into their job and be more satisfied in it. The old style world says “People need to be managed” but in truth (on a number of studies show) that people need autonomy to shine. Autonomy over Tasks, Time, Technique and Team (4T) invokes the inner motivation and boosts our performance, get us into FLOW! Companies like Google, Atlassian, etc. are great examples of autonomy.

Even though autonomy motivates us it needs to be well thought of. For example autonomy should be a perk that encourages people to CHOOSE some of the things they do, CHOOSE the time they do it (at least on some level), CHOOSE the way they do it (in the frame of what is accepted or tolerated) and CHOOSE who they work with.

Atlassian shows a good example of autonomy over tasks. They hold a “FedEx day” every quarter. The “FedEx day” comes from “delivery overnight” and it basically means that people can choose ANY task they like (a problem waiting to be solved, an innovative idea) and they have one day to make it work. In the noon of the next day they all have to present their product, solution, whatever to other co-workers. This sprouted some of the most innovative things they’ve done. The problem was that they only had 24 hours in a quarter to do it. So they changed it into 20% of all working time. This “20% time” is now where innovation happens.

Where Atlassian excels at Task autonomy, companies like Best Buy, Meddius, F-secure, etc. excel at autonomy over time. “When people don’t just show up and grind through their day they’ll be more productive.” Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, says: “Nothing is more important to my success than controlling my own schedule.” Autonomy over time gives you the freedom to do things when you are on your most productive state, in the FLOW. Monitoring is again needed but trust also motivates people; trust that they will show up and do their work.

Autonomy over technique is the corner stone of craftsmen. Take art for example where new techniques are found every day. There would not be Monet’s pointillism technique if he had not the autonomy over technique he uses. If people are forced to obey the rules by which method they work, they tend to be unhappy. If exploratory testing would be forbidden in where I work it rules out so much testing done and so many techniques I use, I couldn’t do my work efficiently. The choice over HOW I do the things I do is for me the most important aspect (as you can see from “Best Practices (NOT!)”).

Autonomy over team is probably the most difficult one to achieve. Some companies have done their share in team-wise autonomy by letting the workers into the recruiting process. For example, F-secure Corp. has an additional step on in the recruitment process which includes a team interview. All candidates get a chance to meet the team and mingle a bit. Then the team says their opinion about the guy and a decision is made. Other companies (like Whole Foods) have removed their executives from the hiring process and let the team members do the hiring. Then after 30 days trial time they can decide to “keep ‘em” or “lose ‘em”.

Other form of autonomy over teams is the free time activity with the co-workers. The autonomy over team presents itself with off-time clubs and sports teams that the workers put together. After being made the social connection to people it is easier to communicate even with harder issues in the work place. After you have a choice of the people you work (or play) with the work has more meaning and is more fluent.

Even though autonomy is a hard biscuit to swallow, companies eventually move towards autonomy. Though some managers still think people are from the same mold as they came in the 1910’s we all strive towards freedom. If we weren’t there would be no companies like Google or Zappo’s. And by giving people more choice over the four T’s (Tasks, Time, Technique and Team) they just might perform better and be more creative than their counterparts that are forced to comply instead of engaging.


Motivation 3.0 allows us to be more engaged in what we do. Instead of complying other people strict rules we seek to accomplish goals that are closer to us and thus being more close to the subject we work with. Engagement has also this weird way of encouraging towards mastery. By getting closer to the subject we find a need to better ourselves in doing the thing we do. E.g. by being allowed to program without the boss breathing to your neck, one just might find an innovative solution to a problem. Mastering our jobs motivates us to do our jobs better.

I already had a few words about getting better at what you do (in my post "Why top performers are top performers") but mastering is a motivating thing as well. There might be no need to motivate you separately to master a field as the prospect of mastery provides the motivation needed.

When people reach a flow in what they do (check out books about the Flow) they usually are more prone to searching mastery. They notice that they can achieve something they do with ease and start increasing the performance and the difficulty little by little. This is what the book calls “Goldilocking”; not doing things that are too easy (they get you bored) or things that are too hard (they get you anxious), but doing things that are “just right”. Jeoff Colvin describes this in three circles inside the other. The outer layer resulted in boredom and the center resulted in anxiety. By staying between boredom and anxiety is the optimal place for achieving mastery (and learning). But it seems that mastery is a fickle thing…

Mastery is a mindset! If you don’t think you can achieve mastery then you probably won’t get it. In the book there was a good example about intelligence and development thereof. If you think about your intelligence as fixed amount of knowledge then your intelligence might not increase from what it is currently. If you think your intelligence as a muscle that you can train it most probably grows. As I described in the performance post, there is nothing preventing you mastering the domain you want except yourself.

Mastery is PAIN! Every single athlete knows that without pain there is no result. Only by repeating the exercises, training programs, etc. can mastery be achieved. There are no shortcuts to mastering a domain only hard work. And to top it all mastery is an asymptote. One can never truly and fully master something as there is always more to learn. That is one of the most appealing things that drive us towards mastery: it is almost impossible to achieve. The fact that full mastery cannot be achieved is both frustrating and alluring and it seems that it is the process of mastering an art that drives us towards it.


The third element of intrinsic motivation seems to be a sense of purpose. We rarely do things (and enjoy them) if we don’t know answer to the question “why”. In companies that have large engines of bureaucracy and command chains the purpose of doing something is easily lost. Doing something that “makes no sense” is a serious de-motivator to us using the Motivation 3.0. Companies seek purpose to make their product/service more appealing. Companies support developing countries and thus make a purpose for business; it’s more fun to work if you know that your work has a meaning.

In business world the purpose is something of a nicety; you can live without realizing the full purpose of what you are doing. In the TV-show Friends this guy Chandler is a data analyst who has no idea why he does he does. By realizing the fact that there was no purpose for him to do the job he lost his motivation. If you feel you don’t know why you do something, start asking “Whose purpose is it anyway and what have I got to do with it?” We need to do our work/live our lives to accomplish something and Purpose is “the something”. There are three basic pillars to support the purpose motivator: Goals, Words and Policies.

Goals work as a milestones to purpose. By setting different goals you feel you are accomplishing something even though you have some path to tread until you achieve some bigger goal. By setting both performance goals (getting an A in a math test, reaching your sales quota) and learning goals (being able to understand and apply the math, being able to fully understand the need of a customer) their overall impact on your motivation is optimal. Performance goals support the extrinsic motivation and learning goals build intrinsic motivation. The goals we set pave the way to the purpose and as we strive to reach the goals we move towards our purpose.

Words are fickle. Words can change our way of behavior. Think about vows. If you vow something (like a “I speak the whole truth, etc.”) it sets you a standard, a purpose, to strive to. When things are said out loud they are stamped into our brain as a code of conduct. When a group of Harvard graduates in 2009 saw that the economy is going downhill because of economists and business people cheated or cut corners rather than practice ethical economics, they saw that they could make a chance. They made “the MBA oath” (just like a Hippocratic Oath) to “strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide.”

Words are also used to measure our behavior. Listen to your co-workers talk about your company. How many times they use the word “they” to refer to the company instead of “we”? The “we” signifies that the company is coherent and everyone thinks they are in the same ship sailing towards common goal.

Policies are also an aspect of purpose. They overlap a bit with both Goals and Words as they are a part of both. Policies refer to ethics and good manners. Wrong policies can push towards unethical behavior or even discrimination. Let’s say we have a HR policy that goes something like this: “All members of the company should treat each other with respect and kindness.” The atmosphere in the office might just be open and friendly and all conflicts are resolved with a friendly talk. Let’s say if they change the policy into: “Abusing, harassing, bullying, physically or mentally assaulting a co-worker is strictly not allowed with a penalty of a fine. Racist or sexual comments, behavior, writings…” Now that most likely sets the environment not possibly to encourage bad behavior but at least make it more controlled and closed. Policies allow people to pursue the Purpose with their own terms.

Motivation 3.0

The science has known the third, intrinsic drive for many decades and it is researched by many. The business world just hasn’t grasped the Motivation 3.0 yet. The “carrots and sticks” are for cavemen; the new trio is what motivates us today: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

See more about the Drive from


Rasmus Koorits said...

Thank you for yet another great book recommendation. Read the Talent book a week ago and just finished Drive.

So here are a few questions/ideas on how to apply this to testing:

1. Would it be too far-fetched to draw parallels between Test-Case Based Testing and Motivation 2.0? Exploratory Testing and Motivation 3.0? The first seems to imply algorithmic understanding of testing, the other a heuristic one.

2. What about Test-case Based Test Management and Session Based Test Management?The latters seems to be inherently more autonomous than the former.

3. What about Motivation 2.0 and TMap?

Pekka Marjamäki said...

Thanks Rasmus! Good ideas! And I think TCBT and Mot2.0 are absolutely related. Instead of engagement and autonomy, TCBT is focused in restricting and control. It makes sense that managers that think they can manage a test team make them do scripted testing. This "old school" management is most commonly seen in "out sourcing" countries where teams are managed by close-minded western policies.

I think all things seeking to "manage" testers are of Motivation2.0 as good, motivated testers are able to manage themselves. What feels more like Motivation3.0 is guiding testing and forming a framework in which testing is done so that is is measurable and accountable (not countable). When motivated tester is gove a framework in which he/she is able to work, the work done is more efficient and result driven than artificially managed and controlled.

I dare not say anything about TMap as I have not delved into it more than knowing the term. Has anyone opinion about it? Plase share.