Many of my friends are already or soon-to-be parents. Watching their children learn new things in a pace so fast that even Usain Bolt seems slow caught my attention. All of them are really quick in using their dad’s smartphone, the family iPad. Even the SmartTV gets wizzed through as if it has always been there. When you give them your old family photo album they expect to slide through it, just like an iPad. Even for me it is sometimes hard to follow, let alone their grandparents. The learnings that don’t come naturally, so it seems, are the things that they have to do by school, their parents or life itself.

So what are the intrinsic motivators to cater for this fast pace of learning? Could these be used as well in an adult environment, say e.g. a Scrum Team?

Crawling on the Internet some evening I stumbled upon the blog post ‘How Children Learn [1]’ which describes the intrinsic motivation factors which play a role for a kid to engage an activity and contribute to a learners’ behavior.

Children choose activities that they like to do and avoid tasks that are frustrating or boring. So the first motivational factor is about enjoyment. Within a Scrum team people also need to be happy and be able to work on things that energize them to receive a good outcome. According to a study happier people are 12% more productive [2]. So a good Scrum Master needs to be present to energize the team and take away those nasty energy-draining impediments. A simple tool that can be used is the happiness index [3].
Activities in which children have no control are avoided. They love an environment where their action has immediate impact. A Scrum team also needs to be in control of its own destination and in return will be more committed towards success. Velocity and reliability metrics (e.g. planned vs delivered) can be used to gain insights in the teams’ ability to control their own destination [4].

When an activity sparks the interest of a child it is more likely to engage it. If an organization invests in Scrum teams by spending time working on improving their (technical) skills (e.g. software guilds, hackathons, conferences, coding kata’s, etc.) the spark will become a fire and the people involved will be more engaged within your organization. If you, as organization, create a culture where everyone can share their ideas and optimize the processes, tools and the people then we are on the path of continuous improvement. If you let people hit the wall over-and-over again, the path to continuous improvement becomes a muddy, hard to get through road. Eventually no one is willing to go down it anymore. Loneliness and bitterness take over and the sun disappears behind the clouds. You now have broken you continuous improvement cycle and the only way forward is down…

Children develop feelings of competence if they think they have a reasonable chance of success. The way to achieve this within a Scrum team is by celebrating their success, how small sometimes. Also providing the team with positive customer feedback will help to raise the feeling of competence. Instead of hammering on the negatives try to turn them around by defining improvement actions to become even better….

So if you want to grow your Scrum Teams and therefore your organization then remember these four intrinsic motivational factors when guiding your Scrum Teams towards success: enjoyment, control, interest and feelings of competence!

[1] https://dustormagic.wikispaces.com/Intrinsic+Motivation+Factors
[2]http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/eproto/workingpapers/happinessproductivity.pdf
[3] http://www.scruminc.com/happiness-metric-wave-of-future-2/
[4] http://jeffsutherland.com/ScrumMetricsHICSS2013BWSubmissionFinal.pdf

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