Ted.com just posted the last month’s TED talks and, to our surprise, Atlassian was hailed by Dan Pink (best-selling author and former Al Gore speechwriter) as a company that motivates its employees in radical and effective ways.

Specifically he mentions our ShipIt Days, where we set aside 1 1/2 days for developers to work on whatever they want (with a skew towards our products) and then demonstrate it live to the entire company. He also mentions Atlassian’s 20% time where Atlassian developers are encouraged to set aside one day every week to work on their own projects (again with a skew towards our products)

Dan’s premise is that 20th century carrot-and-stick incentive systems do NOT work for 21st century knowledge work. In fact, such incentive systems actually make knowledge workers perform worse when tasks require cognitive skills.


He proposes a motivational system that taps into workers’ intrinsic motivation, the desire to do things because they matter, because they’re interesting because they are part of something important. His “operating system” is based on three pillars:

    1. Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives (like Atlassian’s ShipIt days or 20% time)
    2. Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters
    3. Purpose: yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves


You can watch Dan’s full speech below or read about the deliveries from our recently completed ShipIt XII here:


Updated June 1, 2010

Here’s a nice RSA Animate of the same talk

Atlassian at TED – Daniel Pink on 21st Centu...