Small victories and the need for motivation

In previous articles (here and here) we’ve spoken about the joy of side projects and how the web app Signup came to be. Staying on the same train of thought, today we’re going to talk to you about small victories and motivation (as one could guess from the title).

If you’re a football fan, you’re probably familiar with the apparent joy of the players every time they score a goal. Even though it doesn’t win them the game (they might even be down several goals still) the team is happy and start playing with renewed energy.

Or, if you’re not a fan of sports, imagine playing Counter-strike. Every kill is a small victory, making the game more fun and energizing you for the challenges to come. Even if you get shot five seconds later, nobody can take your small victories away.

The small victories bring us joy in all parts of life. The only time the small victories tend to be under-emphasized is in the workplace. But that is where it should be most important!

The danger of soul crushing routinism

Humans are innately creative beings. Most of us like to have routines as the basis of our work, but we get bored if that is all work is. And let’s face it; bored people are neither creative nor productive. You want your staff to be motivated and engaged in the work they’re doing. Sometimes it’s hard, when you have a very long stretch of work with adjusting details to get everything just right. Or when you need to do what feels like the same work over and over.

That’s when you want to encourage or introduce the small victories, in the shape of smaller side projects. The 2011 book The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work by Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer, discusses how even small steps forward can ignite and foster creativity and engagement. According to the book, it is even the single most important factor that induce creativity, productivity and commitment in the team.

There will always be routine tasks you need to get done. With side projects you can encourage your team and make sure they’re not being crushed under the day to day work. The best way to shake things up and break the routine is to encourage the creativity of your team and expand your business with side projects.

Great side projects don’t always derive automatically from your business plan (almost never, in fact). They come from the ideas that pop up in the heads of your team while working on the main business. Questions like “wouldn’t it be easier for the client if we had this feature?” or “wouldn’t this task be simpler and faster if we had a tool like…?” are the first seeds of side projects. It’s important that the team leaders encourage and nurture these seeds, especially if the proposed side projects are close to the main business or related to it.

You need to find the right balance though. Encouraging the free flow of ideas in the team isn’t the same as saying everything should be made real in a side project. The best and most attainable ideas should be chosen, but to get those you’ll want to make your team feel they can discuss their ideas freely.

P.S.
Be sure to check out Signup

The Elks :)

Telecom infrastructure for web. Built by happy developers in Uppsala, Sweden.

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