14 December 2023

Manage so that you don't have to motivate - absurd or scientific truth? | Part 2


In my previous article, I described Motivation 2.0, whose behaviour (type X) is driven more by external desires than internal ones, caring less about the inherent satisfaction of an activity and more about the external rewards resulting from it. The opposite is behaviour (Type I) based on Motivation 3.0, which is driven more by internal desires than external ones, where the satisfaction of the activity itself is important to us. Today I would like to elaborate on the characteristics of Type I behaviour and describe its foundations. 

Type I behaviour is acquired, not innate. These behavioural patterns are not permanent traits. They are inclinations that are born out of circumstances, experience and context. Type I behaviour, as it grows partially from universal human needs, does not depend on age, gender or nationality. Science shows that when people assimilate basic practices and attitudes – and can put them into practice under favourable conditions – their motivation and their ultimate performance increase dramatically. Any Type X can become a Type I.  

In the long run, Type I almost always outperforms Type X. An intrinsically motivated individual usually achieves more than their reward-seeking counterpart. Unfortunately, this doesn't always work in the short term. It's true that a deep focus on extrinsic rewards can bring quick rewards. The problem is that such an approach is difficult to sustain over long time. And it doesn't help you achieve mastery, which is the source of achievement in the long run. There is evidence that the most successful people often do not directly pursue success in the conventional sense of this word. They work hard and, despite difficulties, persist because of an inner desire to control their own lives, to learn about the world and to strive for something that will last. 

Of course, Type I doesn’t reject raises or give up their paycheck. But one of the reasons why fair and adequate pay is so important is that the issue of money is not so important all the time and people can focus on the work itself. In contrast, for many Type X people, money will always be a topical issue. With appreciation, the case is similar. Type I people like to have recognition expressed for their achievements, as recognition is a form of feedback. But for them, unlike Type X, recognition is not an end in itself.  

Type I behaviour is self-directed. It is dedicated to becoming better and better at something that matters. And it ties the pursuit of excellence to a higher purpose. Ultimately, Type I behaviour depends on three nutrients: autonomy, mastery and purpose.  

An example is the ROWE management strategy. It is the brainchild of Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, two former human resources managers at US retailer Best Buy. In plants where ROWE is used, people do not have set working hours. They come in when they want. They don't have to show up at the office at a specific time or show up at all. They just have to do what they are supposed to do. How they do it, when they do it and where they do it is their business.  




A sense of autonomy has a powerful effect on an individual's performance and attitude. According to research by behavioural scientists, autonomous motivation promotes better conceptual understanding, better grades, increased persistence in school and sports, higher productivity, less frequent burnout and higher levels of mental health. 

It is specifically about autonomy in four aspects of work, including: 

  • what people do,  
  • when they do it,  
  • how they do it. 

In the 1930s and 1940s, William McKnight, a CEO of CM, had a simple credo: "Hire good people and leave them alone. Those men and women to whom we delegate certain authority and responsibilities if they are good people, will want to do their job their way," - he wrote in 1948. It was the employees of this company, for example, who invented sticky notes. Scientist Art Fry came up with this idea not during the course of his normal duties, but during that fifteen per cent time of 'experimental doodling'. According to the former director of research and development at 3M, most of the inventions on which the company still relies on today were born during the use of a smug and experimental doodling strategy. McKnight's innovations are still used today at 3M. However, only a surprisingly small number of other companies have followed suit, even though the strategy produces evidence-based results. The best-known company to have adopted it is Google – it has long encouraged engineers to spend one day a week on in-house projects. Some Googlers use their '20 per cent time' to revise an existing product, but most use it to create something entirely new. In a typical year, more than half of Google's new proposals are born during this period of pure autonomy. 

Motivation 2.0 assumed that if people were free, they would avoid work and that autonomy was a way to bypass responsibility. Motivation 3.0 starts from a different assumption. It assumes that people engaged in heuristic work (where you have to experiment with possibilities and come up with innovative solutions) want to be responsible, and that the way to get there is to guarantee them control over the task, the time, the technique and the team.  



The opposite of autonomy is control. Because they are at opposite poles of the behavioural compass, each directs us to a different destination. Control leads to subordination, autonomy to commitment. From this distinction comes the second element of Type I behaviour: mastery – the desire to get better and better at something that matters. 

The most noticeable feature of today's workplaces may be a lack of engagement and a lack of respect for mastery. Research by the Gallup Institute shows that in the United States, more than 50% of employees are not engaged at work and almost 20% actively disengage. The cost of all this lack of engagement: is around $300 billion in lost productivity annually – an amount higher than the gross domestic product of Portugal, Singapore or Israel.  

University lecturer Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi conducted a study using a survival sampling method (he reminded respondents at random intervals, every day, to note down what they were doing, who they were with and what their state of mind was). With these results, he found that people had the most euphoric, most satisfying experiences when they were in a state of emotional flow. In a state of emotional flow, goals are clear. As Fast People magazine notes, a number of companies, including Microsoft, Patagonia and Toyota, have realised that creating a pro-flow environment that helps people strive for mastery can boost productivity and increase satisfaction at work. 

What's more, a study of 11,000 scientists and engineers working in industrial companies in the US found that the desire for intellectual challenge – that is, the desire to learn something new and engaging – is the best predictor of productivity. Scientists motivated by this intrinsic desire filed significantly more patents than those for whom money was the main motivation, even when the effort each group put into the work was taken into account.  

Green Cargo, that company and companies that employ researchers who register many patents tend to use two tactics.  

First, they give employees what I call Goldilocks’ tasks - challenges that are neither too much nor too little, neither too difficult nor too easy. One source of frustration at work is the frequent gap between what people have to do and what they can do. When what they have to do exceeds their skills, the result is anxiety. When what they have to do is far below their ability, then the result is boredom. But when one is matched with the other exactly as needed, the results can be wonderful. This is the essence of the emotional flow state. Goldilocks' tasks provide us with an intense experience. 


The second tactic that smart companies use to increase benevolent attitudes to flow theory and their employees' chances of achieving mastery is to activate the positive side of the Sawyer Effect. It's about turning work into play. There are tasks at work that don't automatically trigger a wave of emotional flow but still need to be done. So the brightest companies give employees the freedom to shape the work they do in a way that brings a bit of flow to otherwise mundane duties.  


A state of flow is essential to achieving mastery. However, a state of flow does not guarantee the achievement of mastery, as the two concepts operate on different time horizons. The former occurs in a single moment; the latter unfolds over months, years or even decades. You and I can 'get into the flow' tomorrow morning – but neither of us will achieve mastery overnight.



The first two elements of Type I motivation – autonomy and mastery – are crucial. But a third - purpose - is needed for balance. It provides the context for its two partners. Autonomous people, working towards mastery, operate at very high levels. But those who do so in the service of a higher purpose can achieve even more. The most deeply motivated people – not to mention those who are the most productive and satisfied – connect their desires to a goal greater than themselves.  

A profit-related goal, albeit a powerful one, can be an insufficient impetus for both individuals and organisations. An equally powerful source of energy, which we have often ignored or dismissed as unrealistic, is what we might call the 'purpose motive'. This is the last big difference between Motivation 2.0 and Motivation 3.0. For satisfaction depends not just on having goals, but on having the right ones.  


In summary, science shows that the secret leading to high performance is not biological motivation, nor motivation related to reward and punishment, but a deep-seated desire to direct our own lives, to develop and expand our skills and to live a life of purpose.


If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to read the book: Daniel H. Pink's ”Drive. The surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”. 


Source of graphics:

Agnieszka Topczewska-Pińczuk
Scrum Master | Project Manager

I believe that anything I do, I do for the end-user. I maximise value by:

- setting a path to the product's goal, helping developers do what they need to do

- frequently inspecting the result of their work to confront assumptions with reality

- adapting to the changing needs of Stakeholders based on feedback and measurable data.

I manage IT products agilely and know how to make your vision a reality. Would you like to work with me?