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May 2010

Motivation with Mark Knopfler

The word universe means the one song or poem: uni-one and verse – sound or poetry. So sound - so music - so poetry has an inherent capacity to change our mood, and from this our motivational energies. What we listen to, and when, is significant.

As Shakespeare wrote in The Merchant of Venice, “The man that hath no music in himself, nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils”. So it is that all highly motivated people listen to music often, and should do more so.

Personally I love the music of JS Bach, which I listen to on an almost daily basis, but I also love a small number of great rock/pop stars of the last 40 years. I wonder who your heroes are?

For me Mark Knopfler, erstwhile Dire Straits – with as many great tracks solo as he had in those earlier, halcyon days – is one of the greats. His music is simultaneously melodic, intricate and epic. The epic comes from those great guitar finales he plays – think, Tunnel of Love.

Last night at the Bournemouth International Centre I had the pleasure of seeing him live. My wife, my son Joe, and I were all swept away with an awesome performance of music that had us spellbound. His live version of Farmer Blues, for example, was just staggeringly great. I could go on – but you get my drift.

As we walked back to the car, I said to my son: Joe, well, what the three important lessons from Mark Knopfler that anyone could apply to becoming mega-successful and possibly mega-happy?

If being a member of a rock and roll band is analogous to running a business, what do you think they might be? Tell you in the next blog!

Kriss motivates

I am frequently introduced as a Motivational Speaker, which I always rebut. I like to say I am not a motivational speaker, but I am an expert on motivation. It seems semantics, but it is not. Motivational Maps, my product and company, have developed a language and a metric for motivation. In a sense, then, we are a ‘science’ of motivation, and not what I like to call ‘Ra-ra’ motivation – which is to say, a motivational speaker!

Why is this important? Well, in one sense it’s not. There’s plenty of space for both approaches – key note motivational speakers, and the foot soldiers who work out exactly what does motivate people, and what’s the tool kit that can unlock motivation? But I guess I have been contrasting myself with Ra-ra speakers for so long that they have almost become the enemy!

It was so refreshing yesterday then, at the HTI Leadership HQ in Coventry to meet the great former athlete and now Motivational speaker, Kriss Akabusi. This came about as Kriss was on a course run by my great friend, Mark Turner of Motivational Maps Education: . I had the opportunity to have lunch with him and subsequently to interact for part of the afternoon session.

No surprise to learn how motivated he was and is – and so much laughter – and a surprising lack of self-importance for such a famous athlete. Yes, I would certainly use Kriss as a motivational speaker at my next international conference! And who knows – since we haven’t had one yet – but my South African colleagues say they want to host it in South Africa in 2011! The name’s there then. If you are looking for a motivational speaker – try Kriss. Naturally, once he’s fired up your troops and everyone’s ready to march, then call in Motivational Maps for the journey – but I would say that, wouldn’t I?

South African Motivation

As we know from Bhuddism, it is important not to get too attached to outcomes. As we know from Taoism, there’s yang – success – and there’s yin – disaster, and as things go up, they also go down. Yet it’s hard as a human being not to get excited by events when they go well, and I personally never want to be impervious to the power of my own emotions: they energise, and even negative ones, properly understood, can lead to strength.

Motivational Maps Ltd., my company, has just had a phenomenal week. Our first international licensees have just completed their training in the UK. I have to say, if I had been asked to predict which country would your first international licensees come from, then I would not have said, ‘South Africa’. I might have said the USA, or Canada, possibly Australia, but that was not to be. And, in the light of what has happened – which has been perfect – all that has happened in right.

What, of course, makes it all so very exciting is not merely the commercial opportunity, as great as that is: an exclusive license to develop Motivational Maps throughout the breadth of that great country, but the people themselves. As we encountered each other at Gatwick Airport, I hit if off immediately with Mariana and Marcel Bergman: fantastically energetic and motivated people already, and with the added benefit of being on a mission.

I learned as I drove them down to Bournemouth – the home of Motivational Maps, as they told me – that South Africa was a superb country but one suffering from a major talent drain: perhaps up to 450,000 highly knowledgeable and skilled workers emigrating because of unrest. Thus, for those who remain, difficulties and despair – if the South Africans needed anything, it was motivation. Hence the visit. And for me, what a motivating idea: Motivational Maps being used not just to help a business, but at root to help a country and its people.

Perhaps it sounds too idealistic – but as the good book says, Without vision, the people perish.

Pink Motivation 2

Pink’s brilliant book, Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us, is definitely a must-read for all people concerned about productivity and staff motivation. For one thing he stresses rightly the effects of motivation on being in flow, and points to some useful counter-intuitive findings. A good example is the fact that being without flow for 48 hours starts producing “psychiatric disorder”. Further, “people are much more likely to reach that flow state at work that in leisure”. These are astonishing findings and point to the centrality of work. They have a political import quite apart from a commercial one: we may want to deride those totalitarian cultures that make a big virtue out of work and contribution, but for many people it removes doubt, confusion, and gives them a strong sense of productive purpose. Whatever their poverty and lack of political freedoms, they may still be happy.

The implication for us of course is that all efforts by management to enhance meaning and motivation will make a big difference to productivity. But where Motivational Maps starts disagreeing with Pink’s analysis is very clear. Pink makes out that the intrinsic motivators are de facto better – a higher evolution, a superior upgrade. The truth is that not all people want intrinsic motivation, and an organisation or culture that attempted to implement it for everyone would be doomed to fail.

We hear a lot about Empowerment in the UK (see Macleod review) – a concept Pink initially derides in the book – “just consider the notion of empowerment. It presumes that the organisation has the power and benevolently ladles some of it into the waiting bowls of grateful employees. But that’s not autonomy” – and later sees as aligned to intrinsic motivation. The point is that whilst I personally and thoroughly approve of autonomy and of this motivator being fed for me, I also know that for some people it would be disastrous: they do not want to make their own decisions, control their own time and generally self-direct. No, what they want is to be told what to do, very clearly, very specifically, and very certainly.

Thus, Pink’s analysis, whilst generally true of higher level workers whom we wish to free up to be more creative and productive, does not apply to the lower echelons. And so is seriously incomplete in its assessment.

Pink motivation

Daniel Pink’s new book, Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us, is a cracking read, a brilliant source book for research on motivation, and an essential companion for all managers and directors of organisations who wish to tackle – actually tackle – the issue of how we motivate staff. If you want to know more about motivation and ways to tackle it, this is a good starting point.

That said, I don’t completely agree with 10% of his interpretation of motivational reality. Let me explain. He has created a model, which is simultaneously evolutionary and digital. We have Motivation 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 and are told we need to upgrade our model – the analogy being with software. This seems confusing to me – how do we do that? How do we upgrade our software?

We learn that humans in that familiar place – the Savannah sometime in the distant past – operated on a Motivation 1.0 model, which was all about surviving – eating, drinking, sex and all that primary stuff. Then, the machine world came in and we upgraded to Motivation 2.0, the carrot and stick philosophy with which we are all familiar. This in the Twenty First Century isn’t up to the job, makes us less effective, and we need to ‘upgrade’ to Motivation 3.0, which is where our intrinsic motivators reside.

I would dispute the whole concept of an upgrade; the motivators have all been with us from the beginning, including on the Savannah. Certainly, motivators change, and our environment can have a huge impact on which motivators predominate, but all the motivators are there, and always have been. A better way to look at this is by considering Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. These needs are motivators because at the apex of the hierarchy – or triangle – they are not simple ‘needs’ at all: the need for meaning isn’t a need in the same way that the need for food is, although, of course, the lack of either can kill us. But whereas the lack of food will always kill every one of us, lack of meaning doesn’t always seem to kill everybody; there are people who seem content with - what appears - perfectly meaningless lives: some of the greatest playwrights of the Twentieth Century have written extensively about them – Beckett, Pinter, et al.

What I am saying, then, is that whilst I absolutely agree with Pink on the issue of the importance of ‘intrinsic’ motivators, this is not about an upgrade or an evolution, and a series of tools. The intrinsic motivators are, in my view, the self-actualising components of Maslow’s hierarchy – which Pink identifies as Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Again, I think this is almost right, but not quite.

Motivation 1.0 is the bottom of the Maslow hierarchy, but what Pink has failed to realise is how it is core – and a default position under stress – and further how its characteristics as motivators are not about surviving, eating and having sex. Its characteristic is Relationship driven. The reason for the Motivation 1.0 model being Relationship driven is simple: that survival that we practised on the Savannah was an achievement we never earned ourselves – to survive we learnt at our deepest level that we need a Relationship. No baby can save itself – it learns to rely. So security, belonging, recognition are the deepest motivators we have, and they are part of Motivation 1.0 and most people have not progressed beyond them. There is an important sense in which they are still highly valid – and this is not apparent in the argument that Pink proposes.

In my next blog I am going to investigate further aspect of Pink’s Motivation 2.0 and 3.0 and how it coincides with Motivational Maps – and how it differs.