Tag Archives: motivation

What Drives You?

Photo of man outdoors, arms raised in celebration.In a recent course we discussed motivation and what exactly drives a person to perform or even excel at a job or a task. A big question in my mind is this: what is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and is one better than the other? Will I perform better because I am offered a reward or but because I am personally driven to do the best job I know how? Academics have studied this very question for many years in a field called the science of motivation. The answers from this study can help leaders and teachers understand what drives individuals and how to draw the best from them.

Management Models

Author and career analyst Daniel Pink highlights past studies which show that external motivators really only work when performing simple tasks. This is the 20th century management model. Reward people with money and promotions for performing these rote tasks well and punish them for doing them poorly. In this century we are doing more knowledge work, or cognitive work, such as coding and analysis. The old management model is starting to break down and people are not motivated as much by pay and the reward of a promised position. In some cases money can become a demotivator. Pink highlights three areas that drive us now; autonomy, mastery, and purpose.


I have always appreciated and sought autonomy over my own work. Train me and then step aside and let me find ways to do the task faster, more efficiently, and with greater accuracy. While good pay is nice, I like to own my work and the outcome of that work. I have a domain that I am responsible for and I want to try and perform to the best of my ability. Once I have mastered that task or set of tasks, I will seek out more complex jobs so that I can continually learn. Give me autonomy and I will excel.


Once I am in charge of my own domain I will do all I can to master the inputs, outputs and processes associated with that job. I am motivated to do this not so that I can then work less but so that I can grow and learn new skills. If I master something, then I can mechanize it or give it away to someone who can find even better ways to perform the job. I once had a wise manager who told me that my job was to work myself out of a job. I was surprised by this advice but have since come to understand that by excelling at one position I can then move on to find something that perhaps aligns even better with my life purpose.


I will be the first to admit that you won’t necessarily find a life purpose right out of the gate, but life has to have some purpose and meaning and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. This is that internal motivation I talked about. Maybe you’re fortunate to find meaning and purpose in your work, or perhaps you work in order to have time and resources to pursue a hobby or volunteer work that gives you purpose. It takes time and experience to refine your life purpose so enjoy the journey and try different jobs along the way.


What motivates you? If you didn’t need money, would you continue to do what you do? How do you motivate others, or is that even possible? Are you really just buying their time? These are some of the things I think about. Please share your insights.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Leadership Lessons I Learned at Day Camp

I volunteered recently at a day camp for boys ages 7-10 and learned a lot more than just how to be a kid again. I created an obstacle course that presented challenges for each boy. As the boys came through my station and worked through the challenges, I saw some important management principles emerge. I want to share those unexpected lessons with you.

Ownership is King

I set up the obstacle course ahead of time and it included things such as a rope bridge, a rope swing, tires to crawl through and various other obstacles. This was my design and the boys enjoyed it. After the first couple of days I allowed them to make modifications to my design. Of course, some of the modifications would have caused great injury had I allowed them but such is the nature of a young boy.

I realized that as they changed the design to fit their tastes, they became more invested in the obstacle course. Comments changed from “great course” to “best obstacle course ever!” because it was now their course and not mine. As managers, are we guilty of handing down a vision or a scripted playbook for employees to carry out without giving them ownership of their work? Would they be more motivated if they had a hand in designing their own processes? Would they feel more invested if they contributed to the vision rather than simply executing it? Perhaps stronger ownership would lead to comments such as “this is the greatest workplace ever.”

The Suggestion Box

I told the boys early on that I would welcome suggestions for improving the course. I am not sure they took me seriously but they did offer several suggestions. Some were simple changes that I could make overnight and some were incredibly complicated and would have required super powers. I made the changes I could and the boys were surprised and delighted to find their ideas incorporated into the course. As they saw the changes they pointed out their ideas. One boy even suggested water balloons throughout the course and went so far as to bring some balloons to fill. He was totally invested in the outcome. In short, I took the ideas in the suggestion box seriously. As managers, do we welcome suggestions and try to implement them as we can? Extra effort in this area could result in more motivated employees.

Cooperation Increases Productivity

I allowed groups of boys to modify the course to fit their interests. I found the groups fell into two categories, those who agreed and executed the plan and those who were fractured and could not get beyond arguing about who was right. Those who agreed to work together had a lot more time to enjoy the fruits of their labor, but some groups never even got off the starting line. They split into factions that each tried to implement their own vision. I realized that while it is important to create and execute a shared long-term vision, it has a definite impact on short-term productivity. The longer it takes to agree on the future, the more it impacts current work. Does your team have a solid vision and is everyone working toward that future or do you still have factions trying to move in a different direction?


I never thought I would relate day camp to management principles but the parallels I found while observing the boys were unmistakable. I thought I was going to enjoy a week of sunshine and interacting with youth, and I did, but I also came away with new leadership and management insights.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Setting and Achieving Goals with Technology

Photograph of vintage map and compass.Technology has been used to establish and realize goals since mariners relied on maps, compasses and sextants to reach their destination. I have read several books and articles over the years that claim setting goals is a surefire path to success. Actually, setting and achieving goals are both required to realize dreams. If this is the case, then can I use technology to help me with my goals? Can technology accomplish my goals for me, or do I still need to do some of the heavy lifting? For this blog I researched applications that help in the process, but I have come to realize they are not magic.

Technology Assistance

If good health is the goal, then fitness trackers are a great way to monitor your progress. I spoke with a clerk last week at a large hardware store who claimed she walked 120,000 steps in the last week. In her case, her kids got her a FitBit for Mother’s Day so they could marvel at the energy she expended while on the job. For her, it is more for information and entertainment than for achieving a specific goal, but I have met others who set daily and weekly goals and are religious about achieving those steps walked or calories burned. In that case, the technology behind the fitness tracker provides very real motivation to achieve goals.

Tracking Goals

The Android app GoalTracker allows you to list your goals with particular target values and time deadlines and then helps in breaking down those goals into manageable pieces. This app will alert you when you are or are not meeting your goals. It provides for a nice visual interface to let you know how close you are to achieving your goal or whether you are on track based on your desired timeframe and values. This is a great way to easily track your progress.

Habit Forming

Another Android app that is helpful is the Habit Bull. This application helps you to cultivate healthy habits or break bad habits through monitoring, suggestions, and reminders. The app provides an intuitive interface for establishing achievable goals in areas such as fitness, finance, relationships, or relaxation. It seems odd that we would need reminders to participate in a relaxing hobby or diversion, but such is our modern world.


For ancient mariners the first step toward achieving their goal was to launch their boat in the water and point it in what they thought was the right direction. The compass and map was their guide, but they had to take the first step. In the same vein, I haven’t yet found an app or technology that will achieve my goals for me but they can help me chart my course, track my progress and stay motivated to complete my journey.

Have you found technology that helps you to complete your goals, whether personal or at work? I invite you to share your experiences of what works and what does not work for you.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.