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March 2015

Motivation and Ambiguity

The most wonderful thing about Motivational Maps is, surely, that it has created a language to describe, and a metric to measure motivation. In the past motivation was at the mercy and the vagaries of whichever speaker was speaking; it could mean whatever you wanted it to mean. Great, if you were or are a motivational speaker, but less great if you are an organisation trying to seriously manage de-motivation with your employees and turn it round to get their engagement. And so in this sense the language and the metric have removed all the inherent ambiguity out of motivation, right? Alas, wrong, or at least partially wrong!

Sure, we have a lot more certainty now in tackling motivation, but ambiguity still remains, and in a big way.

Recently one of my best map practitioners sent me a two hour webinar recording of one of their training sessions on maps with a client, and asked for feedback. First, one needs to say that it was a tremendous performance: they covered so much ground in an interesting and informative way. The client certainly went away far more knowledgeable and enthused about motivation than before the training; but there was a problem, one not confined to this practitioner alone; one I have encountered with other top practitioners, and one which is so subtle to get at and which goes to the very heart of motivation and its concomitant ambiguity.

The best way of describing the problem is by giving the example that came up in the training session. They had gone on to a point in the training where each of the properties of the nine motivators were being discussed and analysed; they had got as far as the Expert motivator. As the Practitioner explained the features of the Expert motivator, the delegate immediately got the idea of someone wanting to be motivated by learning, by knowledge, by expertise, and cut in with a comment about some people who so readily want to appear ‘experts’ but a short while into their expositions you realise that they are not experts at all, and that their knowledge is shallow, superficial or commonplace.

Indeed, haven’t we all met these people at one time or another in our lives? But the Practitioner immediately riposted with a remark to the effect that, ‘Yes, but …’ Yes, but the Expert, you see, because they want – really want – learning tends to become expert, and so because they want learning they acquire it. Or desire, in other words, becomes our reality. And of course in the high powered world where this Practitioner lives, coaching senior executives, who are committed to improving, that makes a lot of sense. Most of the time, for most of the people who have a strong Expert motivator, they will acquire the learning and skills that make them experts! Yes, most of the time.

But what the Practitioner was forgetting in ‘absolutizing’ this tendency of the motivator is that everybody has a motivational profile, and when we say everybody we mean the co-dependent, game player types, we mean the plain stupid types, we mean the types too who are confused about every single aspect of their lives because none of it makes sense. In fact, we mean every shade of problematic person. So, when we consider it, there is going to be a significant number of people who have Expert as their number one motivator but whose actual grasp of real expertise is delusional, self-delusional. Let’s not forget what William James, the father of American psychology, said: “Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.”  There is a gap, in other words. So the motivational profile works, is accurate, but because of the limitation of the person the result is not what they think it is – or what they or we want it to be.

What, then, we are dealing with here is the clear fact that motivation leads to performance and also to behaviours, but that just having the motivation may not be enough; the motivation may be compromised by other factors – like, in the case of Expert, stupidity. But more importantly, this means that we cannot just assign ‘certainty’ to any motivational profile, and say it means this or that; because, of course, it may not and we need to look at the context, especially in the above example, the personal context.

Hypostatisation is a technical word that means the process by which we accord ‘reality’ to something; and it seems to me that that process is what it is so easy to do to the maps: we hypostatise the meaning, we make the desire ‘fixed, we want the fly, the living fly, to stay in amber so we can observe it with very little fuss, or very little ambiguity; it’s much harder to observe the fly in flight or as it moves on the green leaf of the human soul. But that is what is required of the great Map Practitioners: never to assume that any motivator (the Expert is just one example, but the principle applies to all nine) is static – like some psychometric profile:  it means you are ‘this’ – but rather to see the desire, the energy, moving and responding to the internal and external environments it finds itself located in. IMG_0441

If this is done, then the Practitioner can go beyond providing a good and competent service to the client about their motivation and their life; if this is done, they can achieve truly amazing insights and ideas that will astound their clients and change their very self-concepts and beliefs in what is possible.