Autonomy is the first element of the Intrinsic Reward Trinity outlined in Dan Pink’s book, Drive (autonomy, mastery, and purpose). It is the ability to make choices about your life, the ability to direct our own lives.
An example of autonomy is rather amazing ROWE (results-only work environment), which is a management style that rewards employees based on results, and not on hours worked. So, rather than expect someone to be in the office between certain hours every week, expect them to get a certain amount done. This gives the employee the autonomy to figure out how they are best able to get the work done.
Another example, companies like Google that do the 20% personal time where you can work on non-primary-project specific things. Or hack days.
It’s not quite the same as independence, as it emphasizes choice rather than lack of connection or dependence on others. Someone can choose to work closely with others, if it helps them get their work done.
In a game context, autonomy could be translated as the ability for a player to choose their level of commitment and their style of play within the game. For example, Health Month allows people to choose their own rules every month. They can choose both the number of rules adopted, as well as how difficult they want to play each rule (ie. No alcohol or limit to X number of drinks per week).
- Effectiveness as a motivational tool: High (4 out of 5)
- Intrinsic or extrinsic: The very definition of intrinsic (5 out of 5)
- Difficulty to implement: Medium, as it requires giving up control (3 out of 5)