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You don’t need to quit your job to have an awesome carreer

When Freakonomics was published, it offered the general public a different view of economy. In a non-fiction market filled with self-help books, it soared in revenue and quickly became a must-read. It strongly resonated with its readers’ need to make sense of the world while basing every fiber in science.

Most of all, it spoke to a hunger for making sense of irrational behavior. As a post-illuminism society, we have the illusion that being intelligent equals being rational. Nothing could be further from the truth. As intelligent beings, we try finding rational explanations for our irrational behaviors, and go through our lives wondering what went wrong, and feeling as ill-adjusted failures for not being able to follow the simple steps that would lead us to the accomplishment we seeked.

Irrationality is always someone else’s problem

Decisions made in cold state don’t last during hot state

The funny thing is that as UX specialists or product managers, we are perfectly capable of capitalizing on our subjects’ irrationality. We can build products and experiments to use or to counter the irrational biases we know we’ll find. However, when we look to the other end of the spectrum — the product team — we expect rational behavior applies. We can break paradigms on customer behavior and trust empiricism. But we are unable to do the same while looking in the mirror.

The carrot dangling in front of us hasn’t been working for some time, but all I see is people insisting on if-then incentives and punishments, and frustrated with the outcome.

“Oh, but that is what the Scrum Master is for!”

Erm. No. Firstly because the Scrum Master is not supposed to be fighting alone against the tide, and secondly because I also see Scrum Masters saying things like “can’t they see this is what they are paid for?”. This is a cultural problem in our society as a whole. We were brought up and trained to believe Motivation 2.0¹ works and as life proves us different we attribute failure to a flaw in people’s character instead of seeing it as a scientist and uncovering why that is.

Going 3.0

Gear up and enjoy the ride

That is when Motivation 3.0 comes up. Scientifically testing what motivates people to be productive and happy. Collecting data on how to keep people on flow². On how to bring autonomy, mastery and purpose to the table. On how to engage people so that monetary compensation is only a baseline to provide for their needs, but not what motivates them to push forward, to become better and to make a difference.

If you look around, and this is not what is driving you, stop now and rethink your strategy. You don’t have to quit your job. You must, however, rethink your approach to it. There are better, more effective, more productive ways of spending your days. The same goes for anyone who works with you or is managed by you.

Here are some techniques to help:

  1. Self-evaluation: make a list of 5 to 10 items mapping situations and professional gaps that bother you. For each item, propose a hypothesis of an action that could help you improve it. Choose one hypothesis to test every 2-week period, and at the end of that timespan, reevaluate the list and the results of your test.
  2. OKRs: set objectives for yourself, and then set at least 1 metric to validate if each objective was reached. Propose a time frame for achieving that objective and what are the steps you’ll take.
  3. Annual/semestral evaluations: maybe you’re unable to change your company policy. You can, however, make the feedback cycle shorter and in a smaller circle. Gather a few like-minded colleagues and propose a project in which the goals are professional and personal improvement. Have weekly, 15–30 min long meetings, in which each participant will state their semestral or annual goal, what they learned the past week, what they plan to achieve the next week and ask for feedback on their development.

All three techniques above act on purpose (you establish practical goals instead of working to pay the bills), autonomy (you set your goals, metrics and steps to achieve them), and mastery (always focus on self-improvement. There is no bonus, no financial reward, nothing but the sheer pleasure to better yourself). Enjoy!

¹ Industrial management’s view of motivation, based on rewards and punishments.

² Flow is the state of focus and engagement that lead to enjoyment in fulfilling a goal-driven task.


Daniel Pink, Drive

Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics

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