There’s a big, fat cat outside: The power of motivation

Source: FutureShapers –

Author: Tomislav Buljubašić

When my dog, a Jack Russell Terrier named Oliver, does not want to go outside to the backyard, I must yell a motivational sentence: “There’s a big, fat cat outside!”. Then he becomes mad and can’t wait for me to open the door to let him outside. He runs as fast as he can all the way to the end of the backyard and then starts to circulate.

Motivation is an essential element of every endeavour. It is difficult to motivate others, but sometimes it is even more difficult to motivate yourself. What is the end goal that will raise your motivation?

Although we are living in extraordinary times at the moment, the message remains the same – in whichever context it needs to be applied. 

Inside the organisation the situation is similar, people are motivated to do what they are paid for, but not everyone is motivated to innovate or contribute ideas. As shown in the graph below,  the following groups are always present in any organisation:

  • Non-believers who simply don’t believe that new ideas can be developed in their environment. They are focused on their daily work tasks and do not believe that the company can help them in unleashing their creativity.
  • Laggards who only want to do their job and nothing above that. They are focused on their daily work tasks without the need to see the broader picture.
  • Improvers who think that they can add incremental changes, but are not fit (or are fearful) for proposing “big” ideas.
  • Innovators who will bring out their ideas for innovation activities inside the organisation. They are always engaged and motivated in the right culture followed by the rightly-shaped challenge.
A close up of a logo

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Figure 1: Group of people in an organisation (Source: 7innovation)

These four groups have the main difference in one fundamental characteristic – motivation. Often, the third group could be triggered with special motivation activities. This includes involvement of the management, which means setting up the call for ideas and putting the attention on the initiative. Next is a reward plan as rewards are often a must to achieve better inclusion. Shares ownership could be a step in this direction. Consider equity ownership as well.  

“Equity ownership is the least distortionary set of incentives. It allows employees’ intrinsic creativity, commitment, and motivation to flourish.” (Source: Eric Ries in The Startup Way)

True motivators are often the culture and behaviour inside the organisation or environment. Other factors, like curiosity, imagination or recognition, motivate people inside the organisation. But how does one do this successfully? 

People are motivated intrinsically, and the best reward comes with the realisation of their thoughts. 

  • It could be pushed with freedom and support inside the organisation, and be achieved by creating the right organisational environment.
  • One way to go about it is considering gamification, as it may motivate a large portion of people in the organisation. This could be integrated by doing ideation through a game-like environment or a special, targeted competition. You may engage new people, or move those who were silent and not interested up to now towards action. 
  • Another option is  problem-solving challenges which could intrigue colleagues focused only on improvements and everyday tasks (improvers or even non-believers).

Is it possible to inspire ourselves and make everything possible to achieve the maximum in our field of interest? Everyone wants to push their limits to achieve the most, but sometimes we can not trigger ourselves to make the first step. Some of us are happy to work in an environment where our work is motivational, it is something we like, it has challenging problems to solve and our potential is fully realised within work tasks. 

For others, there are two options, try to change the environment they operate in to allow for more innovation or if this is not possible, try it outside of the system, on a side-project basis? Which options will suit your organisation better? 

Everyone has a big, fat cat outside to run for… find yours.

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