The Puzzle of Motivation.

Today we’ve got an essay from Arancha Covián, it is extremely interesting so I encourage everybody to read it. Hope you all enjoy it:


    Dan Pink starts his TED talk introducing “the candle problem”, which demonstrates the weight functional fixation has when we try to reach conclusions on how to do things. It was demonstrated that incentives that involved contingent motivators “if you do…, you get…”, dulls and even blocks your creativity. Extrinsic motivators are often used by businesses to build motivation, because they haven´t realised these type of rewards don´t work for 21st century tasks. These motivators, only work when the band of circumstances around the problem is narrow. “Rewards narrow our focus and concentrate the mind”, he says. For the problems that are arousing now in business, that very often need of that last twist that we can only do using our creativity, they don´t work, and often do harm. Most of the problems that we will encounter won´t have a clear set of rules, and won´t always lead to a clear destination. We have to learn how to utilise what we have instead of what we need, and decide to keep going, instead of stopping, when we reach our goals.  All of the tasks taht involve the left brain work, like accounting, financial analysis…etc have all been automated. Machines do the work faster, and better. However, right brain work is needed more than ever. Business have to be different, we need the creative, conceptual kind of minds that make this happen. “Problems you encounter in your business don´t have a clear set of instructions and more often than not, have more than one solution.”


 If when even rudimentary cognitive skills are needed, larger rewards lead to lower performance, we will need to find a new approach to motivation, based on intrinsic type of rewards. We need to build motivation around the desire and will to do things because they matter, to you and to your community. We need to be interested in what we do, and feel that what we do matters, as it is part of something more important. Dan says this type of motivation should work around three elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy, or the capacity to lead ourselves, because when we know where we want to go, we must have the knowledge and abilities to go there by ourselves. Mastery, because we must want to get better and better at something. If we feel it matters, and gives us satisfaction, we will want to keep going until we are the best. And lastly, purpose, because we need to feel that what we do has a reason bigger than ourselves. Traditional management is great if you want compliance, and just for workers to act according to the bosses´ wishes. However, if what you are looking for in your workers is engagement, self-direction works better. You must take the issue of money off the table, because they have to want to work for something beyond external rewards. If you want them to do the best you must build on their experience, not their bank account. Give them something they will only find doing what they do, where they do it. Give them autonomy because, being inevitably selfish to one point, if they feel their job is filling them in some sort of espiritual, motivational way, they will do their best without having to be asked to do so. Because they want to, because if the work their doing them is making something out of themselves, they will want to do their best, automatically.

    A lot of companies, like Atlassian or Google, work with the ROWE method, creating Results Only Work Enviroments. With this type of system, workers don´t have schedules, but have the autonomy to decide over their time, tasks, team…etc. They can decide on everything work related if they get their work done. If-then rewards destroy creativity, autonomy and willingness to do things because they matter (personally and to the world), gives results we aren´t able to reach if we have to measure the work we do to measure the reward we get. If the reward isn´t measurable, but felt, we will look to feel as good as we can, by being satisfied with ourselves, by doing the best we can, and then more.



I feel we don´t have to go further away from the spanish educational system to see that if-then rewards don´t have the same outcome as feeling completed. I have never given the same importance to exams of lessons that didn´t interest me than to practical work and research of things that did. The fact a number will measure your work takes the interesting thing about working away. When our work is measured by compliments, or personal satisfaction, or how much we impact in someone, then it will be more important, and we will give more of ourselves to do better.

I have also lived what is to work on something that apassionates you, and on something that you do because you have to. Passion and interest on the outcome of your problem will make you reach the best solution, because you wont grow tired of building on that knowledge about that thing that you love so much you will never grow tired of it. As an example, I´ve never taken more art classes than the ones obligatory at school. However, I´ve grown as an artist more than I´ve grown as a chemist, although I have been taught about chemistry for the last six years. Having to find a few minutes to draw, will make that time much more productive than being made to work four hours on an experiment I don´t care about. Because in those minutes I will have drawn the best I can, and repeated it until is perfect, because I WANT my drawing to be as good as I feel I draw. On the other hand, I´ve you don´t feel passionate about extracting results off an experiment, you will do it fast and once, not caring about having the most truthful results you can get. Once you finish you won´t keep going if you are not motivated about what you do. So find your passion, and once you are the best at it, keep going and walk towards the new horizon you see once you reach your first one. Before someone sees the landscape you discover and conquers it before you.



This video gives you the pillars on where to construct your work above. Autonomy, mastery, and purpose should be the reasons that move us towards our goals. The lessons I take and that will affect my future work, are, firstly, that I have to be able to grow by myself. That nobody has to water me, I have to find the water by myself, and absorb the nutrients alone. The knowledge is there, or at least the figures, we just have to be able to interpret them, and tie the ends that are lose. If we base our interpretation on the opinions others have given, because each lesson is interiorized by each person individually and then exteriorized inside those conceptual limits each of us has becuase each of us has a different mind, then, we will never be the best, because our knowledge wont be ours, but a mix match of others. I will have to go out more to the street, to do all types of customers and, moreover, do then by myself but, having become autonomous, if it´s by knowledge we´ve learned in the books, or by observing experts doing their work, because they are the best. But all this knowledge, shaping it to our way of being and thinking, to be able to do OUR work, OUR way. But first, I repeat we´ve got to know WHAT to do, and you can only discover this by investigating what is missing.

Then, when I have all my individual tools, I will be able to construct my result, reach my conclusion. The thing about mastery is that you will never be satisfied with reaching your goals, because you will always feel as there is more space to grow, because you love what you do so much, you will never want to stop doing it, and staying in the same level for years and years, will end up tiring you. I can relate this to drawing. I have always drawn on paper until now, that I´ve learned the importance and weight of the digital era. I am now learning how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, and have just bought a course on udemy on Matte Painting. I hope that everything that I learn with these, will help me contribute more with my creativity to the projects, like doing posters, designing flyers…etc. I want to make my passion and creativity matter to more than myself. I know I´m good but that´s not enough now. I want to make it tangible so it can build value.

The last lesson I want to use to get better and grow as a valuable entrepeneur is the need of having a purpose, I haven´t found yet. This is not just about doing something that matters, but about giving what matters to us, to the world, in it´s best possible version, because we have grown to it in the mastery phase. For this, I have to investigate the market and it´s needs, and there is no other way to do so than by observing the street, what goes around in social media, and always having an ear open and the mind prepared to reach inmediate conclusions, founded in something that is real and accuarate. I should go to more events and inspirational talks, and read about professionals that are living of their passions(related to mine), and reach conclusions based on their experience, so I can find ways to live of my passion too.




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