Rosetta Stone Innovation Week: Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose

In his bestseller Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel H. Pink argues for the need to overhaul motivation in our companies. He reviews scientific studies about the nature of motivation and concludes that typical companies have it wrong. They’re set up with a motivational “operating system” based on rewards and benefits designed during the Industrial Revolution for a workforce typically doing tasks that could be decomposed into a series of repeatable steps, like assembling widgets. However, companies today aren’t primarily wrestling with these types of “algorithmic tasks,” Pink says. Instead, they need employees to produce novel, creative, and innovative output. It’s not just a bad fit though; research shows that traditional rewards and benefits actually undermine performance for creative work. Pink’s solution is a new operating system, “motivation 3.0,” comprising Mastery (seeking perfection in your area of expertise), Autonomy (having control over the direction your work takes), and Purpose (working within an organization that has a larger purpose than a bigger bottom line). See his inspiring TED talk for a nice synopsis.

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Rosetta Stone is a “motivation 3.0” company: earlier this month developers and quality-assurance analysts from our product-development team explored ideas and new technologies during “Innovation Week.” Like Google’s famed “20 percent time” and Atlassian’s “FedEx Days” (Atlassian has since increased to 20 percent time also), Rosetta Stone developers worked individually or in teams of two on topics of their own choosing. The week culminated with truly inspiring presentations on cross-platform mobile development with PhoneGap, game development with the Unity game engine, scaling systems with asynchronous message passing using RabbitMQ/AMQP , graph-based analysis of English corpora using metadata from WordNet, and many others.

Like graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister’s sabbaticals, our Innovation Week work is likely to fuel our creative energies for months to come and it will fuel our Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose engine for untold time.

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