Intrinsic Motivation: Our First Fedex Day…

The topic of intrinsic motivation has gotten my attention for a while now. The book “Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us” from Daniel Pink contains some real eye-openers on this subject. This book should be mandatory reading material to (people) managers. For the short version, you can also watch this animated youtube RSA Animate: Drive.    

Rini van Solingen recorded a videolog with me, discussing the topic. You can check it out below.

A personal explanation of the book is as follows (partly quoted from the book): The current business operating system Daniel talks about – which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators - does not work any more. It desperately needs an upgrade, and science shows the way. The upgraded model for motivation contains three elements:    

  • Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives
  • Mastery  – the urge to get better and better
  • Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in service of something larger than ourselves.

My conclusion: motivation should be about self-directed devotion (= autonomy) in order to get better and better (= mastery) at something that matters (= purpose).    

As a manager of the development team of PAT Learning Solutions in the Netherlands, I decided to organize a FedEx Day. The concept of a FedEx Day is mentioned in the book. It is a 24 hours timeframe of self-directed work. The participants can select their  team, think of a project to work on and choose a technique. It is called FedEx, because you have to deliver overnight, like the parcel delivery company. There is only 1 rule: if you participate, you demonstrate the results to the company! No matter what happens.  Participation is highly recommended, yet voluntary.    

I was inspired for the idea by Atlassian, an Australian software company. You can find an excellent FAQ on their website, which really helps if you want to organize such an event yourself. Rumor has it that Google’s GMail and Facebook’s Like button originated on initiatives like FedEx Day and 20% time at Google and Facebook.  I figured that it would be fun and beneficial to the company if my team would get the opportunity to excel in our own Fedex Day. We started at 2 PM on Monday and stopped at 4 PM on Tuesday. We created a one-hour timebox to demonstrate the results to the company. The non-IT colleagues voted and we awarded prizes to all participants.    


  • Almost all developers participated.
  • Participants were completely self-organizing. No interventions from management.
  • A lot of developers were working late for their project. Three of them even spent the night in their sleeping bag at our company (!).
  • Feedback from non-IT colleagues was very positive. I am sure we will have another FedEx day in a few months, possibly with more non-IT colleagues joining.
  • One of the projects, a traffic light information radiator for our build server is up and running!
  • The ideas will be validated by our product strategy team.
  • The participants employed a lot of Scrum and XP practices: timeboxes, pair programming, inspect-and-adapt. Good to see we apply the concepts “outside work”.

And here are our winners with the demo of  a mobile application connected to our flagship product.    

Our winning team: Martijn, Dave, Arno, Roland and Bram

I want to thank everybody who participated in this event. May the FedEx be with you!    



Twitter: @robvanlanen

Ps. Product Manager and agile buddy Menno Jongerius also blogged, please check out his post Fedex days – an absolute must.

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2 Responses to Intrinsic Motivation: Our First Fedex Day…

  1. Paul Kemper says:

    Great to see how this works: intrinsic motivation. Well done team!
    And indeed, I cannot wait to chip in as one of the ‘non-IT’ people.
    In fact, the three buiding principles can and should be applied to marketing as well.

  2. Sandy mamoli (@smamol) says:

    Thanks for sharing this. Very inspiring, we’ll definitely try it too!

    Fijne dag allemaal!

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