There was a semi-philosophical discussion at work this week about really motivates us. One group of fairly competitive folks generally responded that "winning" was at the top of the list.

A group I was part of, however, voiced different ideas. My particular response to the question had less to do with winning and a lot more to do with pride. I'd rather be involved in building things I can really be proud of than obsessed with winning. Often times you can win but it comes at a hefty price. But being proud of what you do is hard to top.

In thinking of examples to help illustrate this, I thought of Microsoft and Apple. I said something like this:

I think most people would agree that Microsoft tends to "win" the battles they take seriously. Apple, on the other hand, rarely "wins" big battles (the iPod being an obvious exception). However, I'd rather work at Apple than Microsoft. They build things I'd personally be proud to be part of.

Hopefully Apple fanatics will realize that I'm not bashing Apple here. I own a Powerbook, iPod, and iPod Shuffle. But I also use Windows daily.

My take is that winning is often a byproduct of doing something you're proud of--but not always. And I'm okay with that.

What's your ultimate reward?

Posted by jzawodn at June 10, 2005 09:50 AM

Reader Comments
# Danny Howard said:

Well, the iPod isn't "winning" either, in the sense that nobody is "losing." Apple created something cool and new and, fortunately, successful.

The Microsoft mentality might be that they "lost" by not creating the iPod first, and that they must "win" by creating an iPod killer, which is what they do ... take existing ideas like productivity software and web browsers and do whatever they must to make their product "win" by defeating the competitors.

I'm all for winning, but the real enjoyment is derived from the joy of creating something new. If you create something super-awesome, like an iPod, and win by virtue of its awesomeness, that's the best. :)


on June 10, 2005 10:06 AM
# Mike said:

> What's your ultimate reward?

Money. Usefulness is probably second.

on June 10, 2005 10:30 AM
# Guillaume said:

Well, working at Yahoo gives you both i guess ;)

on June 10, 2005 10:43 AM
# Gabe said:

Interesting. I think your personal emphasis on pride is good and probably healthy. But consider this assertion: the further up the chain you are, especially in a public company, the more pride and winning should merge. (Replace "winning" with "maximizing profits" if you wish.)

on June 10, 2005 10:48 AM
# Marc Hedlund said:

Jeremy -- my answer is "both." If I build something of which I'm very proud, and it fails, the motivation is pretty ephemeral. People still speak well of the company I co-founded in 2000, but when it closed in 2001, my pride in what we built was definitely diminished. Likewise, winning with a loser product wouldn't make me any happier. I'm greedy -- I want to win by making the best.

on June 10, 2005 10:48 AM
# Miles Libbey said:

Pride. If you focus on building great products (that customers need and want), then winning will take care of itself. The competition doesn't matter in itself except that they may have a particular bead on what customers want that you may have missed.

on June 10, 2005 10:57 AM
# Martin said:

How about money? When you can't win and don't have the capacity of feeling proud of your job .... :-( :-)

on June 10, 2005 11:04 AM
# Brad said:

Neither. I try to enjoy the process. The outcome is unimportant.

on June 10, 2005 11:15 AM
# Nilch said:

I agree with you wholehartedly - Pride in what we do should be the motivation to keep going.

I think the current world - money driven world to be precise - is obsessed with winning (isn't Winning just an envelope that encompasses making money, beating the competition, getting to the top et al ?)
as a end by itself.
I dont think winning is the end - it is the feeling withing oneself that is the end - the good feeling of being proud, of being satisfied, or being content and ultimately of being happy, not the tag of 'winner' that is more without the human feeling content. I agree winning can make you proud, happy, content etc etc, but the act of winning is still not a part of the human feeling thing - it rather generates some emotions. Feeling proud is on the other hand - a purely human feeling and not any tag assigned to you.

Thats what counts for me as a person in my work.

on June 10, 2005 11:25 AM
# jim winstead said:

"winning" is a funny word. i am not primarily driven by the sort of winning that leaves a loser. in the case of yahoo vs. msn vs. google, or mysql vs. oracle vs. sybase vs. microsoft, i would (and do) get more satisfaction from pride than victory.

there is a good discussion in one of the team management books about motivation, and how the disconnect between the motivations of managers and developers can often be a source of tension. i thought it was in peopleware but couldn't find it -- maybe it is steve mcconnell's rapid development.

it is easy to be less motivated by money when you have it. earning more money than i already do is not a great motivator for me -- but that priority would obviously shift if i were unemployed for a while.

on June 10, 2005 11:38 AM
# AM said:

I would also rate pride over winning but IMO the real danger is when either of them morphs into _EGO_.

on June 10, 2005 12:32 PM
# ScottG said:

One of the greatest things I ever heard someone say was that in business it is greater to set out to solve a problem and become successful and wealthy because of it than to set out to become successful/wealthy and achieve your goal.

I'd definately rather be proud of my work AND successful than just "win".

on June 10, 2005 06:37 PM
# Chris said:

Interesting that everybody is thinking of this in adult business terms. I deal with every week with the 11-12 year old baseball team I'm coaching. Getting kids to focus on what they can control and to take pride in that is tough. They place so much emphasis on the score, and when 11 year olds are pitching, the score is really a pretty poor indicator of anything. And I'm not just saying that because we are 2-5 ;)

on June 11, 2005 09:27 AM
# Rob Steele said:

"What's your ultimate reward?"

That would be the beatific or the miserific vision. But maybe you didn't mean quite so ultimate?

Love your stuff.

on June 11, 2005 12:31 PM
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