The ABCDs of motivation on the Steem blockchain

in #steemexclusive6 months ago

Acquire, Bond, Comprehend, and Defend - Let's discuss how the ABCDs of motivation apply to the Steem platform.

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Pixabay license: source


In my STEM Digest post the other day, I thought that one of the links was especially interesting. This link, Keep Your Weary Workers Engaged and Motivated is from the Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge web site. In the article, Boris Groysberg and Robin Abrahams describe four aspects that drive human behavior, and they give advice for managers to harness these desires in a business environment. According to these authors, the basic desires that drive behavior are desires for acquisition, bonding, comprehension, and defense.

The crux of the authors' argument is here:

The extent to which a job satisfies these four drives accounts for a large portion of how much an individual is motivated in their work. While improving the fulfillment of any one drive enhances employee motivation somewhat, the key to a major employee-motivation advantage relative to other companies comes from improving all four drives in concert.

In the following sections of this post, I'll begin a discussion about how we can harness these desires in our online community in order to strengthen the Steem ecosystem by keeping our Steemizens motivated.

I'm just thinking out loud, so feel free to disagree or elaborate on the thoughts here.



Pixabay license: source

The most obvious of the four factors driving human behavior is the desire to acquire... stuff. In a job, that's our salary.

On this topic, the authors give this advice for employers:

  • Pay as well as competitors
  • Sharply differentiate good performance from average and poor performance
  • Tie rewards clearly to performance

Elaborating, they also say that managers who succeed at promoting the desire to acquire do these things:

  • Set clear expectations by which performance is evaluated
  • Demand high performance
  • Ensure their team members receive rewards and recognition.

In the Steem ecosystem, what people want to acquire are the rewards. It's no surprise that this desire is already widely recognized and pursued. In fact, it's one of Steemit's "Three Rs" (Reward, Recruit, and Retain). So there's really not a whole lot to say about this.

In short, the advice to curators may be similar to the advice for managers. There should be a sharp divide between rewards for "good content" (which I define as content that attracts eyeballs) and average or sub-par content. This is not Earth-shaking advice, but it does hint against a strategy of spreading the rewards around. It also suggests that in addition to voting, curators should also give guidance to content creators so they know why they're getting the rewards that they're getting, and how they can increase their rewards.



Pixabay license: source

Here on Steem, we generally refer to bonding as engagement. The point of addressing this motivation is to create an atmosphere where friendships and other relationships can flourish. In advice, the authors suggest the following advice for managers:

  • Foster mutual reliance and friendship among coworkers.
  • Value collaboration and teamwork.

And they offer this description of things that model managers do:

  • Make employees feel a part of the team
  • Are people-oriented
  • Care about employees on a personal level.

It's not as obvious how this advice applies to the Steem ecosystem, but it suggests a focus on Communities, resteems, and on engagement. In short to fulfill this desire, we need to help each other succeed.

Steemit's 1% and 2% votes for engagement are a good start towards fulfilling this desire, but I don't think it's controversial to say that we still need more engagement. To really advance this, I think the engagement needs to be genuine, and that means that we need to have people here who will take our eyes off the rewards and put our eyes on the people and on finding common interests. (See also "defend")

Another thought that occurred to me is that a specific form of engagement might be especially useful for cultivating this drive, and that is the use of comments that create links between related posts. For example, if I see two posts on the same topic, commenting on one with a link and description of the other may be a good way to bring together authors who share a common interest and might not already know each other.


Pixabay license: source


The authors are light on specific advice when it comes to the drive to comprehend, but they suggest that it is mostly met through job design, and that, "Best practices include designing jobs that comprise distinct and important roles, have meaning, and foster a sense of contribution to the organization." They add that model managers succeed with these techniques:

  • Empowering team members
  • Giving team members challenging assignments
  • Helping team members learn and grow.

Here on Steem, the most obvious example I can think of for meeting the drive to comprehend is the Steem Greeters' Achievement System that was set up by @cmp2020 and the other Steem Greeters. Another example of meeting this desire is the #learnwithsteem part of Steemit's #betterlife initiative. Another example is the series of October Challenge posts where people have been asked to help advise the community about things like DeFi and our favorite exchanges.



Pixabay license: source

To me, this was the least obvious one to apply to Steem. As-of yesterday, I was drawing a blank. Today, it "clicked" though. If we want to increase the number of STEEM or SBD that we're holding, we're pursuing the drive to acquire. In contrast, if we want to increase the value of the STEEM we are already holding, then we are pursuing the desire to defend. Here is a relevant quote describing how this desire is met in the world of management and leadership:

On the organizational level, this drive is usually satisfied through performance management and resource allocation systems. Best practices: Processes must be transparent and fair, and their transparency and fairness must be communicated to employees.

Managers who meet the defend drive well:

  • Create a psychologically safe environment
  • Treat people fairly. Encourage team members to speak up and listen to what they say.

For us, I would argue that this is the desire that ties all of the others together. Why would we want to focus on people instead of rewards? This is why. Similarly, this gives all STEEM-holders a reason why we would want to help people satisfy their need to comprehend. These things fulfill a defense need for all of us.

Another topic that's relevant to our defense need is the downvote. In my ideal world, the downvote would be unnecessary because we'd have a better rewards algorithm, but that's not the world we live in. Here in the real world, I grudgingly admit that downvotes are sometimes necessary. So, on one hand the judicious use of downvotes satisfies our defense need by preventing the blockchain from filling with spam and abuse. But on the other hand, overuse of downvotes is demotivating and fear inducing and works against our drive for defense.

A final aspect of satisfying the defense drive here on Steem comes in curation practices. There is a particular account that (last time I looked, which was a while ago) holds about a million SP. When STEEM was priced at $8, that's a cool $8 million dollars. Now, it's about $160 thousand. That's a lot of lot of value to have lost, but a million SP is still a lot. Now, that account holder has a choice between two curation strategies:

(i) Post ten vaccuous posts per day and upvote those to acquire rewards -or-
(ii) Curate to satisfy the drive for defense in a way that shapes the trending page, rewards authors of attractive content, and raises the value of STEEM, including their own stake.

By pursuing strategy (i), it will be a long long time until that account can achieve its formerly high value. In contrast, if a high enough portion of curators pursue the second strategy, I think that $8 million is achievable again for that account owner (assuming they haven't sold). I believe that for large stake-holders, the second strategy will almost certainly be more lucrative.


Thank you for your attention. I was fascinated to learn about the ABCDs of motivation, and it's been interesting to think about how these can apply to the Steem ecosystem. We have always known that in comparison to most cryptocurrencies, the community is a competitive edge for Steem. By harnessing the ABCDs of motivation, maybe we can learn to make the community even more of an advantage.

It should also be noted that there are almost certainly changes that could be implemented in the technology that would also help people to fulfill these desires (web site and blockchain), but those are beyond the scope of this article.

What are your ideas to cultivate fulfillment of these desires here in the Steem ecosystem?


Thank you for your time and attention.
As a general rule, I up-vote comments that demonstrate "proof of reading".

Steve Palmer is an IT professional with three decades of professional experience in data communications and information systems. He holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics, a master's degree in computer science, and a master's degree in information systems and technology management. He has been awarded 3 US patents.


Very interesting post.

Relating the ABCDs to Steem presents some challenges.

We try with our various "economic stimulus" measures like the onepercenters to push forward on some of these.

Some of these measures work well, others less so.

It is a process of continual experimentation, refinement and transition.

Hopefully we are moving in the right direction - but still much to do, and much to improve.

Thank you

The Steemit Team

It is a process of continual experimentation, refinement and transition.

Hopefully we are moving in the right direction - but still much to do, and much to improve.

I completely agree. As they say, "Progress, not perfection." After reading the HBS article, I do think the ABCD framework might be a useful model for guiding progress.

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