How to learn about the intrinsic motivation of your team by playing Moving Motivators

In this article, I describe my experiences with the powerful Management 3.0 tool and game Moving Motivators“. I use “Moving motivators” in retrospective and team-building workshops. The goal of this game is to improve communication in the team by getting a better understanding of each team member’s motivation. It shows the intrinsic needs and values of each person and how everybody responds to them.

There is a huge difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. I believe – and science shows – that extrinsic motivation like money, bonuses, rewards only works in the short term. People would like to work well and have a feeling of self-control and self-direction in accomplishing their goals. Intrinsic motivation works in the long-term and is achieved when people’s basic desires are fulfilled.

The game is based on the Champfrogs model and its ten intrinsic desires. Jurgen Appelo – the founder of Management 3.0 – evolved from the works of Daniel Pink, Steven Reiss, and Edward Deci.

The following list shows these ten intrinsic desires and the most used explanation of them. According to the mentioned work above we all have these intrinsic desires and motivation more or the less:

  1. Curiosity: I have many things to investigate and think about it.
  2. Honor: I am proud that my personal values are reflected in the way I work.
  3. Acceptance: The people around me like and appreciate what I do and who I am.
  4. Mastery (Perfection): My work questions my competence, but it is still within my abilities.
  5. Power (Influence): There is enough room for me to influence what is happening around me.
  6. Freedom: I am independent with my work and my responsibility.
  7. Relatedness: I have good social contact with the people in my work.
  8. Order: There are enough rules and guidelines for a stable environment.
  9. Goal: My purpose in life is reflected in the work I do.
  10. Status: My position is good and is recognised by the people who work with me.


The goal of the game is

  1. to achieve a common understanding of the motivators
  2. to get to know his own motivators and the motivators of others
  3. gain awareness of the impact of changes in your own environment
  4. to reflect how you feel about things right now and how things would change in a certain new situation


How I used Moving Motivators

I worked in a project team with eight people at a client. We developed a new digital learning platform and introduced a new method for workplace learning. As an internal service department, the clients for our platform where other departments and teams within the enterprise. We faced some changes in the product strategy and maybe changing the technology and platform supplier to first get more acceptance with our clients and second to reduce development costs and costs for our clients. We had the need to do these changes.  We knew this would have consequences on our value proposition, portfolio, services, communication strategy, and maybe new team members. Fortunately, we could fully decide about them.

With Moving Motivators, I wanted to find out how these changes would affect the motivation in the project team and what will be new stress triggers in the team. Despite the future changes, I also wanted to find out what is the root of motivation in the team itself. We had never talked about this before.

In some groups as a facilitator, I find it tough to get the discussion about values in the team started. In my experience, many people say it is very personal and private to discuss motivators and values. And it is hard for them to find a starting point. That is why I tried out the game Moving Motivator because, in my opinion, it is a very structured and also playful approach. I thought when people have the feeling of playing a game and have fun they would be more willing to share their motivators and values.

Each participant receives a set of ten cards, one card for each motivator. When you work remotely, make sure that everybody in the team has got their cards beforehand. In the beginning, I explained the goal and purpose of the game. Then I described the difference between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation and each motivator.


Round 1:

I asked the participants to determine which motivators are most important to them individually now. Each team member brought their cards/motivators in an individual order – horizontally from important to unimportant, starting on the right with the motivator that is most important. The other motivators were arranged on the left in descending order of importance. They should answer the following questions: What motivates me in my work and what triggers stress in me? I learned identifying personal motivators was more difficult for the team than it first appeared and I thought it would be.

Then everyone presented the order of their cards and briefly explained why they had placed them this way. In this discussion, we learned a lot about the people in our team. We found out we almost have the same motivators. There was no big difference in most motivators, only slight ones like one motivator was the most important one for one person, but on the second position for other team members. We also learned more about each other’s and the team’s stress trigger, the motivators that had the most unimportant positions.

We did not get to know only similarities, but also the differences and diversity in the team that might lead to misunderstanding for the other person’s behaviour. In general, the team fitted together very well, but we identified one bigger difference. There was one person in the team who chose the motivator „order“ as the most important motivator. For the other team members, this motivator was not that important. The team got a better understanding of why this person needs more structure and rules to feel comfortable and behave differently than the other team members who chose „freedom“ as one of their most important motivators. We discussed that this person could take over some necessary organisational tasks regarding project management that would give the team a more structured environment, for example organising and preparing team meetings, weekly, and retrospectives.


Round 2:

As the next step, every team member should consider how the changes regarding our project and portfolio will affect their motivators. Will they be strengthened or weakened by the change? They should move and adapt the cards. If the change is positive, they should move the card upwards, or if the change is negative then downwards. When the change had no effect on the motivator, the card should remain in the middle.

For some team members, the Mastery card went down, and they were afraid not to meet competencies and future requirements. Another example was the card „Status“. People had the fear that they may lose their status and position, and have to rebuild it with clients and other teams in the company. This also influenced the card „Acceptance“ negatively. Then we talked about how this change will influence their motivators. Which motivators are important to you after the change? Which ones are less or not important to you after the change? We also discuss the findings in the group: Has something surprised you? Are there any similarities with other team members?

Regarding the future changes, we now knew our top third motivators the changes should meet, and our stress triggers. It is important that everybody feels comfortable and empowered to face the changes. As a facilitator, I learned that step two in the process should be repeated to meet all changed motivators. It is a deeper reflection and needs more time than the first reflection. I will plan more time for this in future Moving Motivators game sessions.

During the process, I made the experience that it is essential to make and remind everybody that talking about personal motivators is not about judging team members but to improve openness and understanding. Otherwise, people will discuss a lot about other people’s motivators and ask about the „why“. Then people will feel exposed and are forced to explain themselves. I also learned that the moving motivators game can reveal and resolve team conflicts regarding team constellation and tasks as we had in our team with the motivators „order“ and „freedom“.

In a remote work environment, it is difficult to show card order and results. We created a Mural board for sharing results.


My key learnings


  • The “Moving Motivators” is a simple but powerful approach and a game that forces teams to reflect deeper values and what is important. It is a great tool to get the discussion about personal and company values started.
  • You should make sure to allow sufficient time for reflection. Especially for step two, I will plan more time in the future.
  • Team leaders/managers get insights into whether certain events have rather motivated or demotivated the team. When most of the important motivators go down, or when only the least important ones go up, you may realize that you have some work to do regarding the change so that everybody feels comfortable.
  • In the game, you can also identify possible conflicts of the actual team constellation, as we had with the cards „order“ and „freedom“.
  • There is no right or wrong in this game. There is only one right! Don’t judge the people by their personal motivator order. Discuss their view with them.
  • My role as a facilitator is to help the group to stay focused on motivators. I recommend using timeboxing to get the discussion focused. By asking the right questions as a facilitator you support the group to explore their motivators now and the possible change of them.


Learn more about the practice „Moving Motivators“ and Management 3.0.


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