Tag Archives: motivation

Making the Shift – Mysterious Miracles

dreamstimefree_241439

I’m intrigued with that hard-to-describe, ever so powerful moment when we decide to act differently than we usually would.  That moment when we break out of our usual routines of thought or action; when we, in a sense, set aside nearly everything that has made us who we are up to that point.  Why do we sometimes choose or allow these shifts, what makes them happen?

For me, that isn’t just a peripheral, mind-games question, but one that has profound impact on my work.  If I’m working with a group on how they approach conflict, talking with a work team about collaborative processes, working with trainers developing workshops, facilitating a group meeting, or designing interactions related to social justice and -isms, all of that work is by necessity predicated on the idea that my intervention may have an impact … that some external stimulus may prompt a change for the people I’m working with.  And because I have the privilege of a fairly high degree of control of my own work and because I tailor each activity to the people I’m working with, I have to think about what may have the most impact for each particular intervention.

I’m no expert on the science of these shifts, but what I’ve noticed, and what seems to be backed up by research, is that lasting change usually comes from both cognitive (thinking) and emotional or subjective processes … being introduced to something new that logically “makes sense” is only part of it.  It seems we’re more likely to change our habitual patterns and behaviors …

  • If people we like or who have influence or power over us adopt the “new” attitude or behavior,
  • If we believe that the “new” attitude or behavior either is intrinsically rewarding (now or in the expected future) or that there would be heavy costs to not changing,
  • If we believe that the “new” attitude or behavior fits in in some way with our values and our image of ourselves.

(See more on motivation in What if … we were motivated to collaborate?.)

So part of what I’m doing when I work with groups is trying to create a setting that both encourages, challenges and supports participants to consider how new ideas fit for them.  How would what I offer change their perceived rewards or costs, how does it work with their existing beliefs and patterns, how does it fit with what others around them might say or do?

Figuring out whether what I do may have the impact I intend isn’t a mathematical equation whose answer I can predict.  What motivates one person or organization to change won’t be the same as what works for another, and I can’t be an expert on whether or how what I have to offer may fit for someone else.  There has to be a certain kind of humility in this work.  To try to force a shift to happen, to manipulate people into un-chosen change, or to insist that the miracle take the form and timing I think it should is hubris – and disrespectful.

Which is why I feel such awe when I’m able to witness a moment where one of these shifts takes place.  There is in that moment a mysterious miracle, a moment when the balance shifts – perhaps in part inspired by something I did (or didn’t do), but most certainly born from some internally created and nurtured seed that has burst into bloom.  A moment when all that had been stacked up against change suddenly tilts, an opening appears, and consciously realized or not, our motivational equations add up differently.  Marvelous, isn’t it?

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under General collaboration, Social Change, Training and Learning

What if .. we were motivated to collaborate?

In our post-election world, it seems challenging to imagine a truly collaborative “working across the aisle” while we collectively grapple with the dismay that half of this country “isn’t like me,” “doesn’t get it,” and “is just wrong.”  (Check out the recent This American Life show on political divides – whew, sobering.)

Makes me think about what motivates people to collaborate, and to consider whether there is anything we can do to strengthen our political resolve to work together with our differences.

Motivation can be based on internal or external factors.  On the internal side, we often feel motivated to do something 1) because it meets a personal need (for example, getting food on the table or doing something that makes us healthy), 2) because it feels good to do it (it’s fun, fulfills a duty, shows altruism, etc.), or 3) because there is a strong sense that a personal need is not being met (for example, unfair working conditions, threats to human rights or pollution of our common resources.)

External motivation usually comes in the form of 1) acquiring or maintaining status (reputation, social connections, etc.), 2) receiving financial compensation or other concrete benefits (for example, getting money or access to services, or cultivating networks that will lead to getting more funding or business in the future), or 3) being included in a group (for example, going along with what we think others are doing or want us to do.)  We may also feel more externally motivated to do something when it seems easy (there are support systems and tools, and the way forward is clear), and when we see leaders doing the same thing.

So, using these factors, how are we doing in the political sphere on the internal and external motivation to collaborate?  Not too surprisingly, the current scene looks discouraging.  In terms of external motivators, the financial pressure to adopt particular policies or practices and the peer pressure to maintain party loyalties are forces working against collaboration.  Similarly, it’s easy to imagine that our elected officials want to maintain their high-status positions, the financial perks, and the potentially lucrative and secure positions they’ll get once their political careers are over … and that those benefits often come at the price of working within the contentious, non-collaborative status quo.

And while there is some potential prestige from working across the aisle, it’s not easy – there aren’t easy channels or venues for cross-party collaboration, and very few political leaders to emulate in that arena.  You could argue that the current threat of a “fiscal cliff” provides some incentive for working together, but it doesn’t sound like that’s resulting in anything more than the same tired, positional soundbites … could it be that the perceived threat isn’t strong enough to inspire collaborative action?

So what’s got me intrigued is whether folks like you and me can do anything to influence politicians’ perceptions of their internal or external motivations to collaborate.  How about recognition or appreciation for any even slightly collaborative action or statement by our representatives, and some fun way of expressing that recognition or appreciation? Depending on who it is, what can we appeal to in order to push for a more collaborative approach … a sense of duty to their constituents, the satisfaction of “helping,” a strong sense of fairness, the reputation as a person who gets things done, etc.?

And on the external side, would a grassroots collaboration campaign diminish or counteract the powerful financial incentives towards the status quo?  What if we made it clear that we wouldn’t re-elect folks who don’t collaborate, that business and other support for their campaigns comes at the price of committing to cross-political divide work?

What if we trained all our young people in the art and science of collaboration, and tested based on our ability to work well on teams and in groups?  What if we awarded an annual collaboration prize, offered scholarships for the study and application of collaborative strategies, created financial incentives for sharing knowledge and using interdisciplinary teams?

What if we made our elected officials mention one thing they liked about their opponent’s proposal before they offered a criticism, made them identify one positive attribute of that opponent, told them they had to check to make sure they’d understood what the other person said and count to three before they responded?

What if we paired up supposed opponents and asked them to draft three options they could live with for every policy challenge?  What if we all had to come up with fifteen options for resolving any problem, without criticizing a one, before we could talk about choosing a solution?

Kind of fun, don’t you think?  I like this “what if” game – it feeds my creativity and inspiration, and yes, it motivates me!  So join the collaboration party – what are your collaborative “what if’s,” what motivates you?

1 Comment

Filed under Activism, Conflict, Social Change, Working with Groups