In the UberConf expert panel, someone (Travis) posed a question about “how do you motivate/enable [teams stuck in legacy] to start growing and continuously learning again?”

Laine Vyvyan had a good answer: make it safe for them, and then show them it is safe now. Usually growth stops because new ideas are slapped down.

When you’re thinking “motivate/enable” — think enable.

Remove existing incentives that get in the way. Keep more from getting in the way. Protect learning and growth, and people will do it. We want to do useful work.

It’s tempting to “use incentives.” Adding incentives to motivate people… doesn’t. It asks them to fight the existing system to jump through some new hoop. Don’t! Make the system supportive instead.

Then signal importance with questions and gratitude. Show you care about learning and growth by asking, “What have you learned about this week?” and “How is the team working differently now than earlier?” Then say, “Thank you for doing this research” and “Good job trying that new thing, the one that didn’t work out.”

Make growth safe and normal, and success will be its own reward.