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Dec 23

Understanding the power of motivation @danariely

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Stop talking and do as I say! You’ll see, everything will be fine… A TED Talk by Dan Ariely on what makes us feel good about our work leads us to wonder…

What motivates us to work? And how important is it to understand what drives people to do what they do?

Dan Ariely is an expert in behavioural economics. In this video, he talks about several situations that bring to light various motivation factors that affect performance; I will single out two essential factors: everything that concerns the need of recognition and the meaning given to action.
Indeed, in both business or high-level sports, beyond a project’s conscious objectives there is always an unconscious plan that, most of the time, is more important to the person involved: recognition, integration, congratulations, acknowledgement… “an award for the work accomplished”.

“Others” enjoy the advantage of looking at us from different perspectives and being able to form an opinion on our performance whereas we never see ourselves. We need our relationship with others in order to be able to calibrate our work’s outcome.
Nothing worse, says Dan Ariely, than ignoring someone’s accomplished endeavour. Indeed, if we don’t benefit from positive signs of recognition (compliments, acknowledgements, validation, boosting…) then, “unconsciously”, we would much rather receive negative signs of recognition (reproaches, bad assessments…) than be ignored. Being ignored is equivalent to not existing.

How far are we prepared to go in order to exist in the realm of others’ perspective of us? Everyone will have their own answer to this question…
As for the other strong point made in this video, how is it not possible to remember that “meaning relieves pain”? A mission, vision, project, desire, vocation or intention… we need to define our actions with meaning. These objectives are subjective and yet they are essential.
If there is no meaning, or worse – as it was for the students who saw their project’s initial meaning brutally taken away from them – pain immediately creeps in. When this happens, on an unconscious level we want the pain to be recognized or even shared with “others” (coming in late, demotivation, objections, expense accounts…).
Even Sisphye would have felt his task lightened, despite its repetitive nature, if it had had meaning. Without meaning, work turns back into labour, torment, sufferance… (etymology).

So what can we take from this enlightening video in view to train, collaborate, perform as a team?

How can we define a project’s meaning? Who decides? How can we get each participant to put into words what the project means to them, within their scope of responsibility? His/her mini-project, contribution… Naming the meaning first involves intellectualising its outlines in order to fully express it afterwards. The verb commits a person in his/her reading of a situation (risks, opportunities, resources, interactions, performance indicators…) and allows the others around him/her to form an opinion on the perceived contribution, analyse the means involved and the strategy that each participant will implement in this person’s project.

And what if, thanks to a known and accepted schedule, it became possible to recognise each and everyone’s contribution, on a regular basis, and communicate positive and negative signs of recognition related to the finished work? Because without these points of reference, fear and discouragement will comfortably settle in…
Last, but not least, how is it possible to guide a project in progress? Offering to modify the project and the vision according to the overall situation is an interesting alternative, rather than ignoring the work accomplished… and the risk of having the project pay a hefty price later on…

Since the demonstration has been made that meaning does relieve pain, that we are lost without points of reference, that each and every one of us unconsciously hopes that the pride we feel in our accomplished work will be at least equal to what others perceive of it, and that our contribution will also be recognised… how can we go on ignoring the impact of these levers on performance?

Performance and Motivation are on a boat. Motivation falls overboard… What is left on the boat? … Nothing!

But why place the power to affect our own motivation into the hands of others?
How can someone give meaning to his/her actions alone, and reward themselves for their performance?
How can this wisdom and maturity be encouraged?
So many questions to relieve suffering and improve self-confidence… to be continued…

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