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June 2013

Motivation and Cats

I had a great experience recently when I got my two cats to do a Motivational Map. Over 20,000 maps have now been done on human beings and we are getting some deep understandings of the kind of things that the profiles reveal about people. We can see, for example, what a typical profile for a sales person might be and contrast that with, say, that for an accountant – wow, and are human beings different. But I think most people might regard cats as all the same; how wrong can you be?!

We have two cats – twins – from the same litter, but it is quite obvious that they are very different from their behaviours; then the maps revealed they were quite different from their root desires, their core motivations too.

Minnie, our female ginger cat, likes lounging round the house a lot. What was her profile? Well, her motivators were, in rank order from the top, Defender (Security), Star (Recognition), Builder (Material satisfactions), followed by Friend, (Belonging), Spirit (Freedom), Expert (Expertise), Director (Control), Creator (Innovation) and last of all, the top of the Maslow hierarchy in fact, Searcher (Making a Difference). This was so palpable in everything she does: the lounging for starters – avoiding the Toms in the garden; then the need for endless public strokes, almost equally scored with her desire for high quality food, and her constant goal of getting more. Somewhere lower in the list of motivators were her two conflicting motivators: yes, she wanted to be part of (Friend) the human family – when it suited her – but equally wanted to be completely independent (Spirit). Again, these latter two motivators were almost equally scored on her profile, and in real life that seemed exactly what it was like: one minute you couldn’t stop her circling round your legs for love nor money, and the next, where was she – she just won’t answer to calls?!

But then there’s her sister, Clio (short for Cliocatra), a twin, but not ginger! Her profile, when she completed it, began to explain her behaviours. First, she was a Spirit (Freedom) – of course, so independent; then she proved to be a Builder, a goal-directed materialist. In fact Builder was the only motivator she shared in her top 3 with her sister. But Star was not in the top three; instead she had Expert! Ah – that explained the skill, the finesse, and the success with which she hunted. Yes, Clio was a killer of small vermin and birds on an extraordinary scale, only deigning to rein in her freedom and her killing sprees when she got bored and there were easier pickings in the kitchen.

The full order of her other six motivators was: fourth, Defender (Security) – she is also extremely cautious, fifth, Creator (much more inventive than her sister), Star (Recognition), seventh Director (Control), eighth Friend (Belonging), and finally ninth, like her sister, Searcher (Making a Difference). Both cats exhibit no tendency to make a difference to their environment or the world more generally.

I don’t have a dog, but I guess they would be fascinating to understand more deeply too. If I were a betting man, I guess Friend (Belonging) might be their number one motivator. But then again, for some dogs – leaders of the pack – it might well be Director (Control). So different to a cat.

Certainly, this has been a fascinating experience for me and I hope you have enjoyed reading about it. If you think more work should be done on understanding the motivation of our pets, please comment accordingly on this blog, and perhaps too you might like to suggest whether or not you think we should devise more accurate Maps specifically for all kinds of animals that we love? Bear in mind, the Motivational Map already exists in 11 different forms, so I don’t see any reason why we can’t develop a specific version for a pony and – although it may sound ridiculous – but even a goldfish. Let me know what you think. Thanks.

Leadership and Technology

Leadership, as I often like to say, is the number 1 factor bar none that accounts for organisational success. Even if everything else is set-up to work, to be effective and to be efficient, a bad leader can screw up every advantage, natural or contrived. Nowadays we talk about the big three things driving organisations: People, Processes and Technology, and clearly leadership is in the first category.

My own company relies heavily on technology for its outcomes and its success. It would be true to say that even 15 years ago it would be difficult to conceive of how my company could have worked and functioned without the outstanding technological innovations of the last twenty years. So do I like technology? You bet! And yet I feel too that technology is becoming far too widely accepted without the scrutiny and critical analysis that properly belongs to a leader’s function (or one that the leader would and should commission). Put another way: there are at least three major problems with technology that leaders – in their rush to be successful – seem to conveniently ignore, and I would like to outline them here.

First, that technology has a dreadful habit of sponsoring co-dependence and ultimately servitude. We see this in the street or on the train: the men and women who cannot stop barking into a mobile phone; and those who cannot prevent themselves accessing their emails wherever they are, including at family socials. The great French writer Proust magisterially foresaw this as early as the late Nineteenth Century when a friend asked him to acquire a telephone and Proust asked what a telephone was. The friend patiently explained – it sat on your wall, it rang, you picked it up, you spoke with somebody miles away. But for Proust it was enough to know it rang – ‘I am the servant of that!’ he exclaimed. When bells rang, servants were summoned. He had no intention of being a servant to a bell ringing on his wall; he realised the essential infringement of his liberty that was contained in the very concept of a phone.

Which leads to the second point: the law of unintended consequences. We see technology as being a solution; but always with the solution there seems to be an accompanying deeper problem. After all, only thirty years ago the new technology was supposed to liberate us; we were only going to be working 2 or 3 day weeks as the technology and the robots took the strain. (Not much talk of that now, though, is there? – all conveniently shelved). But of course the precise opposite has happened. Now, with all this technology abounding, both partners HAVE to work, hours of work are massively extended, Sundays or days or rest barely exist in some sectors, and so it goes on. The technology that sets us free has enslaved us (and it has done other things as well when we consider the state of the Earth). What has the leader to say about this?

Finally, technology has subtly led to a belief system that is almost certainly false: the belief in ‘progress’, and in the utopia just round the corner. Just around the corner people will live to 150, just around the corner cancer will be cured, just around the corner there will be a better world in which everyone can chat on Facebook and they won’t need to fight anymore. Yea, just around the corner. As I said before, this belief has been going on for two hundred years, and it is a ‘belief’ – in the sense that it has no more substance than a dream. In many respects the Twentieth Century was the most horrific century in the whole history of the world – it’s difficult now to imagine it perhaps in the comfort of our Western armchairs – and technology played its full part in making it so horrific: the guns of World War One, the gas chambers of World War 2, the atomic bombs, the napalm and so it goes on.

Thus it is that leadership is about discrimination: the discrimination of ideas; of not accepting the prevailing wisdom and contemporary cant that passes for thought but is merely magazine fodder; of challenging the powers of orthodoxy who are bit by bit (and one may say, byte by byte) enslaving the world. We need leaders who harness technology on behalf of the people to empower them. So we are back to a fundamental distinction that many overlook who see technology as being an unlimited ‘good’: technology is good when it genuinely serves the interest of all the people, and technology is bad when it does the opposite – when dictators, plutocrats, oligarchs, ego-driven CEOs and MDs use it to exploit the last farthing out of people.

We need leaders who understand this.