Friday, February 24, 2017

Psychology and Behavioral Science (not just) for Computer Scientists

This post contains some few excerpts from the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us from Daniel H. Pink.
The field of psychology and behavioral science currently preoccupies me a lot mostly due to personal struggles in seeking purpose.

Societal Operating Systems

Societies have operating systems: the laws, social customs and economic arrangements sit atop a layer of instructions, protocols and suppositions about how the world works.
A big part of our societal operating system consists of a set of assumptions about human behavior.

Societal OS v1.0 code name "Try to survive" was the operating system in place at the beginning of human mankind
Societal OS v2.0 code name "Humans are more than the sum of their biological urges" is the operating system that currently has the biggest installed base
  • Supports more complex societies
  • Cooperation
  • Rewards and punishments to build and scale complex economies
  • Profit maximization
  • Enabler for the industrial revolution
  • Algorithmic, rule-based work
Societal OS v3.0 code name "Intrinsic motivation" currently has a small but growing installed base out there
  • Purpose maximization
  • Social benefit principle
  • Supports really complex societies
  • Powerful, new business models: Open-source
  • Humans have a drive to learn, to create and to make to world a better place
  • Effectiveness
  • Heuristic tasks

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation depends on autonomy, mastery and purpose.
To develop intrinsic motivation an undertaking itself must provide freedom, challenge and purpose to the people.

Self-Determination Theory
The self-determination theory describes three innate human needs: competence, autonomy and relatedness. Satisfying these needs results in motivation, productivity and happiness.

The Open-Source Movement
  • Enjoyment-based intrinsic motivation is the strongest and most pervasive driver
  • The fun of mastering a given software problem and the desire to give a gift to the community
  • Social benefit principle replaces maximum profit principle
  • Open-source people are mostly intrinsically motivated purpose maximizers
  • Open-source people love creativity, interest and self-direction
Flow in positive psychology is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. People can frequently reach "flow" in case of optimal challenges.
  • Flow, the deep sense of engagement, is the oxygen of the soul we need to survive
  • People are much more likely to reach a flow state at work than in leisure
  • Why at work? Maybe due to clear goals, immediate feedback, challenges matching to our abilities
  • This way, organizations can enrich people's lives
Autonomy and Self-Direction
  • Autonomy over 4 aspects of work: what people do, when they do it, how they do it and whom they do it with
  • People should focus on the undertaking itself rather than on the time to do it
  • People should contribute rather than just show up and grind out the day
  • The opposite of autonomy is control. Control leads to compliance, autonomy leads to engagement
  • The billable hour is a relic of societal OS 2.0
  • Mastery is the desire to get better and better at something that matters
  • Only engagement produces mastery
  • The modern workplace's most notable feature may be its lack of engagement and its disregard for mastery
  • Flow is essential to mastery
  • Grit may be as essential as talent to high accomplishment
  • Mastery is an asymptote. You can approach it without ever reaching it
  • Mastery can be an ethic for living
  • Mastery is a mindset! -> Intelligence is something you can develop
  • Mastery is a pain! -> Mastery requires effort over a long time
  • Does your company or team have and share a mastery mindset?
Carol Dweck: What people believe shapes what people achieve.
  • Our believes about ourselves and the nature of our abilities (our self-fears) determine how we interpret our experiences and can set the boundaries on what we accomplish
  • Effort is one of the things that gives meaning to life. Effort means you care about something, that something is important to you and you are willing to work for it
  • It would be an impoverished existence if you were not willing to value things and commit yourself to working toward them
  • It is in our nature to seek purpose
  • The secret to high performance isn't our biological drive or our reward and punishment drive but our third drive: our deep-seated desire to direct our own lives, to extend and expand our abilities, and to live a life of purpose
  • Societal OS 3.0 is built for purpose maximization
  • Purpose maximization is about seeking the right goals
  • A healthy society or healthy organization needs sustainable purpose
  • "They" and "we" companies are very different places
  • What is your company's purpose?
  • What gets you up at morning? What keeps you up at night?

Extrinsic motivation

  • Good for algorithmic, rule-based tasks
  • If-then rewards require people to forfeit some of their autonomy and therefore undermining the intrinsic motivation toward the activity
  • Try to offer now-that rewards instead of if-then rewards by praising and providing positive feedback with useful information
  • Rewards narrow people's focus
  • Goals may narrow people's focus, decrease cooperation and decrease intrinsic motivation

See also: