Motivation 3.0 and Scrum

Daniel Pink, in his book “Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us” (2009), shares the results of studies showing that an employee’s motivation may work very differently from what we imagine.

When work requires only basic, mechanical abilities, like a series of steps with a single result, bonuses work as expected: the more you pay, the better the performance. But when the work requires cognitive abilities, decision-making or creativity, however little, a greater reward may lead to worse performance (Dan Ariely, in the New York Times report “What’s the value of a big bonus?”).

The best use of money is to pay enough so that money is no longer a problem, and then the employee starts thinking about the job itself. And now the main motivation is autonomy, mastery, and purpose:

  • autonomy: the natural desire to direct our own work and lives. While control can lead to more conformity, autonomy leads to greater engagement;
  • mastery: the desire to become even better at something that matters;
  • purpose: the longing for our work to be connected to something meaningful, serving something greater than ourselves. Part of this is understanding the why of our work and the capability of recognizing our contribution;

Thus Pink defines what he calls Motivation 3.0, in which the intrinsic motivation is much more important than the extrinsic motivation, so we increase performance and satisfaction at work.

If you haven’t seen it, check out the animated video with Pink’s presentation about the topic.



It is interesting to see how Scrum connects very well with these three elements:

  • autonomy is directly present in the work of self-organized teams;
  • mastery is stimulated through continuous improvement, a fundamental Scrum factor, and highlighted in the Agile principle “Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility”. This is also stimulated by the multifunctional team, in which everyone ends up learning from each other;
  • the purpose is always clear when we create, in short cycles, something end-to-end, aiming to generate value for clients and users. This focus on purpose is reinforced by frequent feedback, continuous deliveries and the value goals established as part of the work (for example, the Sprint Goal).

Scrum is designed for this sort of work – knowledge work. So perhaps autonomy, mastery, and purpose can be seen as motivational elements of Development Teams with Scrum.

ARIELY, D. What’s the value of a big bonus?. New York Times, Nov. 2008. Available at <>. Visited on 10th Aug 2018.

PINK, D. H. Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us. New York: Riverhead Books, 2009.




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