#motivation: avoidance more motivating than objectives? inspired by a friend + coach #e20 #socbiz #socialenterprise #enterprise20

Summary: I want to share my point of view on avoidance vs. objective orientated motivation and the way that this has actually methodologically helped me in providing support for prioritisation, roadmap management and quick win identification. Please understand it as “playing with a thought” for now 🙂

In an inspiring discussion around organisational change and leadership a good friend of mine raised the argument that people are more motivated by getting away from a certain state (e.g. low social status) than by trying to achieve a new one (e.g. becoming a top manager). Looking at what seems to be driving (the majority of) companies to start or accelerate the endeavours around enterprise 2.0/social enterprise this is a really interesting perspective. Most of the time presentations and mission statements read stuff like

  • we want to activate out expertise and talent
  • we want to get people connected
  • we want to improve knowledge management and access
  • we want to re-use out experience
  • etc.

At the same time motivation, driving adoption and cultural change are (undoubtedly) perceived as key success factors. Based on the conversation with my friend I am asking myself: what would be
different if the motivation for ’change’ would be communicated in the format of ’what we are trying to get away from’ instead of ’where we will be in 5 years’?

I actually believe that there could be something to it…

Ever since I’ve been dealing with the enterprise 2.0 subject it has been a challenge for people I spoke to to really put a finger on what they want – or what they believe to need. Describing it without using technology, platform or benchmark references this exercise is always pretty tough. In particular if the description had to be very short term focussed – not something that eventually will be the result of a larger change (in the worst case even requiring substantial cultural change). To some extend this is even logical. Because how would you know what you want if you have never seen it in action in the context of your daily challenges?

Remember: ’what do you want?’ is not how market research is done in the field of commercial goods. It’s rather:

  • what don’t you like about the product?
  • which of these do you like best?
  • what should be different to make it better fit your needs?

Professionally I’ve (first subconsciously then actually based on actual methodology) addressed this issue by simply asking the questions: ’What is preventing you from being excellent?’ and ‘How did you manage to achieve excellence?’. In this context it’s important to emphasise that I don’t care about what’s required to achieve goals or expected results. I only care about excellence…being unbeatable…way beyond average…being a super performer.

Answers to that question were totally easy to give. If not limited by time the conversations around what keeps people from really kicking it could have gone on forEVER 🙂

What I learned from the conversations was what people are trying to get away from. Things that are driving them nuts every day. Efforts that are draining them and sucking all the energy from them. That particular knowledge has always been the most valuable in distinguishing priorities and roadmaps. Furthermore it has been extremely helpful in active listening exercises to match suggestions to requirements.

Now…applying this on operational level and in the initiation and development of social enterprise endeavours isn’t that much of a challenge. Applying this in the larger context and as an essential pillar of change management and implementation requires certain basic conditions that are…to be polite…challenging for some organisations:

  • Are you willing to openly communicate where you (excuse my English) really suck at?
  • Have you been (like REALLY) listening to people and their operational pains?
  • Are you aware that a networked organisation needs the time and inspiration to network, which means: less hurdles in the day to day work?
  • Are you able of openly communicating the shortfalls in business operations and thereby create the (measurable) benchmark for the improvements (= create a foundation for ROI calculation)
  • Are you willing to accept excellence as the benchmark?
  • etc…

I believe that the motivation to avoid concrete hurdles is more effective than the one to win the 200m run (yes…if you’re Bolt, things might be different…but if corporations would be made out of Bolts we wouldn’t have half the problems ;-)). However, I am NOT saying that a vision is no longer needed. I just believe  – even though I might be stating the obvious here – that a tangible perspective and reason-why are very powerful to drive adoption and commitment on the journey to the connected enterprise.

4 thoughts on “#motivation: avoidance more motivating than objectives? inspired by a friend + coach #e20 #socbiz #socialenterprise #enterprise20

  1. Tim Hanack

    Hi Philipp,
    Your friend/coach raises a very good point. There is that saying that if you don’t know the past you cannot build the future. I personally very much agree to that. Giving our colleagues motivation to change by making them aware of all those little (and also the BIG) annoyances and hurdles that they already overcame, and those that are still present, seems like and proves to be a very effective way to push for those changes.
    Best
    Tim

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