Discovering workers real engagement playing Moving Motivators

Moving Motivators Group Session

In his best-seller “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, Daniel H. Pink explains that the use of rewards and punishments to control employee’s production is an antiquated way of managing people. Dan Pink shows us that most of the 21st century workers migrated from a job with algorithmic tasks (which consist of following a set of established instructions down a single pathway to one conclusion) to heuristic tasks (a task in which the worker has to experiment with possibilities and devise a novel solution), changing the way that they are motivated. So, he emphasizes that external rewards and punishments can work nicely for algorithmic tasks but they can be devastating for heuristic ones. He also concludes that creative workers need to be driven by something that is interesting, challenging, and absorbing to them. Money continues to be important, but is not the priority.

Based on this, Jurgen Appelo, author of books like “How to Change the World” and “Management 3.0”, remembers us that a motivated worker is not necessarily an engaged worker and an engaged worker is more productive than someone who is merely motivated by payment. He also believes that leaders and managers should try to turn mere motivation into true engagement, even when the mundama reason is higher productivity. He explains that different people are motivated in different ways and the distinction between intrinsic (the desire to do something because of an interest in the topic or enjoyment in the task itself) and extrinsic (the need to do something to achieve an outcome that is desired by something or someone outside of the individual obtained by offering rewards or dealing out punishments) motivation is useful but rather simplistic.

Jurgen also emphasizes that technically, we cannot make people feel motivated. He says that we can certainly set up the right conditions that maximize the probability that it will happen, even though success is never certain. He advocates that managers should manage the system, not the people. This means that managers are responsible for making motivation a built-in property of organizations.

In his books “#Workout” and “Managing for Happiness”, Jurgen presents a set of games, tools, and practices that can help us to understand better our teammates. One of the tools that can be used to know what drives teams and the impact of an organizational change in their motivation is the Moving Motivators. This exercise is based on ten intrinsic desires which Jurgen derived from the works of Daniel Pink, Steven Reiss, and Edward Deci and can be played as a card game in one-on-one or group sessions. Playing alone is not mentioned in the book but I also like to play by myself. Each card of the game corresponds to one of the ten desires and its meaning is described in it, as can be seen in the image below.

Moving Motivators Cards

Although dealing with the motivation puzzle pieces can be very complicated, its rules are quite simple:
1 — Place the cards in a horizontal line classifying the least important motivators to left and the most important to right;
2 — Evaluate how can a change affect them, moving cards up for positive impacts and down for negative ones;
3 — Analyze the final result. If most of your important motivators go down or when the least important ones go up, you may have some work to do on your own motivation.

On my last experience with this technique, I used this game to improve team knowledge about themselves. We already had done the Personal Maps exercise to do this job, but I wanted to go deeper and talk about what drives us to work every day.

At first, I explained them the difference between motivation and engagement. I also talked about intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and Daniel Pink’s theory claims that rewards to sharpen thinking and accelerate creativity can do the opposite to creative workers.

Following, I explained the basic about moving motivators game and we played the first level (1st rule described above). After ordering their cards, they thought individually about what drives them and each member explained his own result to the entire group. It was a great conversation because now, in addition to knowing their point of view for each desire, we also know why some desires are so important to them.

Moving Motivators Group Session
Moving Motivators Group Session

However, we hadn’t finished it yet. After that, I explained the second and third steps (2nd and 3rd rules described above) and the team was challenged to reflect answering the question “How my personal motivations are affected by working here?”. It was great to confirm that the way we are doing our work is affecting positively all the team and that improving performance by growing people is bringing happiness and as consequence, better results to individuals and to the organization.

After the Moving Motivators Group Session

Thanks guys for all these moments and by allowing me to be a different kind of manager. Without your contribution, none of this would be possible. I’m very proud to be part of this team. :D