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We may love to hate it, but developer productivity is still on everyone’s mind. Developers worry about it: am I writing enough code? Engineering leaders worry about it: are we keeping up with the state of the art? Are our teams solving the right things? And businesses worry about it: is our engineering work really driving product progress?

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But attempts to measure developer productivity can be risky, damaging, and downright misleading. From the infamous lines of code to brutal code reviews, every developer has a horror story of a time their authentic effort and problem-solving was mismeasured, or worse, even punished. In this talk, I want to propose a different, science-backed approach to productivity: let’s shift to thinking about developer thriving. As a social scientist who’s spent years studying how human beings achieve and maintain sustainable high performance, and the Director of the Developer Success Lab at Flow, I’ll share research evidence from our study with 1200+ developers.about how good problem-solving environments lead directly to higher quality work and collaborative productivity. Coupling validated, large-scale empirical measures of developers’ environments with rich qualitative focus groups and interviews, we’ll unpack the key concepts in developer thriving with examples like cycles of motivation, developer agency, and sense of belonging, and explore how developer thriving significantly predicts productivity. And what’s more, we find that these factors scale better across different teams and industries than measures of “productivity.” Finally, drawing from both rigorous social science and my lived experience spending years working with learners in complex environments, I’ll tackle why despite all this evidence, centering thriving remains a challenge. We’ll explore 7 myths about productivity that I believe hold our industry back, and think through better and more scientific ways of understanding productivity for engineering organizations, leaders, and developers.