on his blog, david maister has sparked a nice dialogue regarding how some people seem to be driven and others are more satisfied to put in their 9-to-5 and pick up their paycheck. while a number of his readers picked the question about motivation - what is it and who has it, david re-focused the group on a second question of where it comes from:
Do you think there are any generalizations we can make about why some people have the will, determination and drive to excel, while others do not? Genes? Parenting? Social Background? Paranoia and Neuroses?
And what does you explanation / hypothesis say about building an organization (of any kind, commercial, governmentall, not-for profit)? What kind of selection processes should organizations use to identify such people?
this was my comment in response. what do you think? i've included some links at this end of this post to previous posts of mine that are relevant to this discussion:
fair enough to call us back to the original question, david. i guess i skipped it because it's really a question that no longer fits the answer. the nature vs. nuture question is a relic because brain science, child learning, biology, and cognitive science have all come to similar discoveries.
it's both and.....
we are born with rudimentary knowledge and skills and a very curious disposition. this initial base of knowledge and skills is added to and molded by experience. the process of adding to our knowledge, reflecting on what we know, what we've forgotten and what we need to learn (or relearn) continues on throughout our lifetime.
perhaps, if all environmental inputs were identical for all of us, we'd all end up in the same place. but life presents us each with a unique set of experiences. some experiences move us ahead, some hold us back. some of us are born with a silver spoon in our mouths with every advantage and end up holding up banks at gun point. while some of us are born into the direst socio-economic conditions, denied education, imprisoned yet end up a freely elected leader of a country and a world recognized humanitarian.
it seems we have an innate motivation to learn and grow that is either encouraged or discouraged by the events of our lives. this would mean that managers do have a role in increasing (or decreasing) employee motivation. what is encouraging to me about this understanding is that we don't have to create the core motivation - it's in us from birth.
throughout life, we amass "cognitive rubble." this might include major issues like prejudice or resentments. but it also includes minor issues like blindspots in our network, biases in work processes, fear of change, unidimensional styles, bad habits, lack of knowledge or skills, lack of experience, unclear goals, misunderstandings, etc. helping to clear the rubble from the mess created by our individual pasts and then keeping things clear so that employees can find and nurture their innate drive to grow and learn is definitely part of manager's role.
certainly, if I'm a hiring manager, i will try to find an employee who has the smallest rubble pile. it just makes sense. but i hope i would have also identified those key factors of the job and what character traits fit and don't fit the position. if the job calls for 75% travel, i better probe to see what the candidate thinks about being away from home.
but no hiring process is going to find out every character quirk of each employee. So organizations need to be built in a manner that fosters diversity of style and character. that draws strength from differences. the goal is to enable individual employees to bring the best that they are to the table for the benefit of the organization.
related posts on e e learning: