Non-sensical post on software motivation

As David Heinemeier Hansson beautifully noted in one of his RoR presentations, the key to good employees is motivation. Why not apply this also to the non-carbon machines in our organizations?

Since, motivation is part of the employees consciousness, which is their encapsulated private inner state, it can only be estimated using external tests, that can only return indicators from which the motivation can be guessed.

Just because our brains use carbon-based neurons, & our machines use silicon-based chips, doesn’t mean we must rule-out a psychological mechanism emerging also in the inner working of our machines.

& if so, motivation may be a critical factor in their performance & quality, just like in the human workers.

What are the external tests used to produce the motivation indicators?

  • What’s their downtime?
  • How positive are the messages they communicate?
  • How often do they report problems?
  • How integrated is their work with their environment & co-workers?
  • How interactive are they, projecting enthusiasm to perform their duties

These are just health indicators, but they usually indicate the most serious illness, lack of motivation.

Essentially, motivation is the force driving the employees to do their work. It is fueled by:

  • How integrated are they in the whole organization
  • How much they’re aligned with the interests of the organization
  • How much they’re bringing value & being acknowledged for that
  • How much resources they are allocated for their work
  • How much their long-term growth is supported

It is slowed by:

  • Too much load & pressure
  • Improper usage & treatment
  • Long periods without upgrades
  • Long periods without vacation

So, assuming that software & other machines have an inner driving force, it could be effected by both external maintenance operations, & also by internal engineering oriented toward increasing the motivation of software. By merely being aware of it, we can focus on increasing the software motivation, & thus making it more productive & healthy.

But all this is just the beginning of a larger question: if software has motivation, what should it be? Motivation isn’t just a predicate of behavior, it’s also the purpose of the behavior. So, designing software to be motivated, involves also the design of the motivation itself in terms of purpose.

My belief is that software should be motivated by the creation & delivery of value, to as many as possible users, but this should be the topic of another post.


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