Why my Mom and Ted Neward Irritate Me
My mother is a psychologist and recently visited me us here in Idaho. We spent some time talking about the psychology behind some agile practices. Pretty cool!
Additionally, we ended up on the one mystery topic that has always eaten away at me. That mystery for me is simple:
Why does one person or team pursue excellence relentlessly while another hits the door at 5:01 and doesn’t think about software development until tomorrow morning?
I got into the same discussion with Ted Neward at the recent P&P Summit while playing pool. Heck, it was almost an argument. 🙂 I said something stupid that night. I said, “It’s all about incentives.”
One Theory: Incentives
I have had the opinion for years that there must be some motivator, some technique, or some dynamic that will affect people positively to simply care. This is the whole idea behind coaching, after all. A well-versed and motivating individual comes into a team and works with them to get better results. This happens every day.
If this will really work, it necessarily means that people are motivated by incentive. What I mean by that conditions like salary, a great leader, wonderful co-workers, free pizza and soda (or something) will inherently motivate someone to care about excellence.
Certainly no one can deny that incentives like these contribute to an enjoyable workplace. Heck, I love visiting the Microsoft campus and downing those free V-8s. All of them combined though, probably cannot cause someone to ponder, read, and learn. Incentives cannot move someone to try a new coding technique just because it might be interesting.
The Irritatingly Simpler Theory that is Likely True
There is just something about unique about people who can’t stop trying to improve. It isn’t the great boss or the great office space that causes me to think about the finer points of TDD in the shower. It’s just because I can’t NOT do it.
Both my mom and Ted Neward tried to get me to see that incentives will get you behavior and results (sometimes the ones you actually want), but can’t create passion. That is something that is simply innately there or not there.
This isn’t to say that there is no value in the person who wants to do their bid and get fair pay for a fair day. That’s not what I’m talking about. I am talking about the fact that most genius is recognized by relentless pursuit, the kind we can’t define.
The Good News
OK. Uncle, I get it. The great news is there are so many of us passionate geeks out there striving to improve. You wouldn’t likely be reading this if you weren’t one. Heck, I even geek to work with some!
What’s your theory? Are passionate professionals just the obsessive-compulsive ones?