What is the main motivation driver

I have this feeling from a long time but I have never been able to make up my mind and to really understand it clearly. Then I read this HBR article on how to “Increase your team motivation” and everything seems so clear now.

When we manage a team of people we always think about what is the main driver to improve team performances, to increase reliability, to make people feel more satisfied about their own work,  how to reach objectives in the most effective way (effective for the people and for the objective). And we always think about the balance of the two “classical methods” the stick and the carrot. At the end of the day they are just two metaphors for two different approaches to the management of people – Push or Pull.

Push is much more “pushing” people when they need to be guided trough a new project, when they need assistance. An example of this is the fixing of milestones, scheduled meetings, planning of step by step targets, checking progress day by day and so on.

A pull strategy is much more leaving the people reach the target without interfering too much, giving them the picture of the objective and trusting on their own experience and skills in order to reach the target, checking only the final result.

Of course both approaches are useful and they have to be used very carefully and in the appropriate moment (Situational Leadership II model).

To these two basic approaches I would like to add a third one, maybe is just an extension of the Pull strategy, but I prefer to think of it as a separate approach. And this sounds like “let the people decide for themselves”. As the HBR article says when we choose for ourselves we are more committed to the outcome by a factor of 5 to 1.

This is a very important factor that a lot of managers forget. If the people is involved in the decisions or better is making their decisions according to the picture given, then the result is five times more efficient than without this self choice. Of course this approach is not easy at all because it means to share more information, to discuss more the projects before starting them and also to receive a lot of feedback on what’s going on (and feedback sometimes is not easy to be managed, especially for “Push” manager). But nevertheless this is the most effective approach and it is clearly demonstrated by results.

In nowadays competitive society, being able to leverage on people skills and let them be part of the decision process, to let them find the time to be part of decision itself is not an easy task at all but if managed in a good way could be the thing which makes the difference between an average organization and an outstanding one.

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The signature that you put in the things that you make

I have the opportunity to work for a company which develops products. Developing or making products have a great impact on the feeling that you have when the product is available – you can touch it with your hands. It is not the same when you work in a company which is more focused in the services or in commerce.

Anyway despite the sector, business or industry, there is always something that you developed and that have involved you in the business of your company. Sometimes is something really tangible (an object) sometimes is something very creative (a design or a project) and sometimes is something very difficult to observe (your management style).

In any case, in all this processes you are involved in the creation of something, in the participation of  a project, in giving your contribution to a final result or simply in being involved in the decisions, strategies, supporting ideas or proposing new ones and so on. But all in all this is a kind of “creation process”.

The creation process is something that gives you the most satisfaction in your life – you have the feeling of being useful. And the most important thing that happens in this process is the fact that anything that you do has a kind of “signature” inside. It is the signature of your experience, the signature of your creativity, the signature of yourself.

Speaking about myself, I have worked with a lot of electronic designers, some of them are my colleagues, some of them are not colleagues anymore, some others are competitors (or I am the competitor). But if it happens to me to see a product designed by one of my colleagues, I’m immediately able to recognize the signature and contribution of all of them to the project. And this happens also for my designs. For example, recently I have been involved in a very brief analysis of a product of one of our competitors. And at the first glance I’ve been able to see my signature inside the device. Parts of the circuit were my ideas, my contributions and my efforts – they copied me.

In theory I should have been upset, but to be honest my first feeling was to be pleased. Or better, I was proud. I was proud to have inspired someone else. I was happy because my signature was inside this product too. If someone is copying you is because they believe that your work is good.

Sometimes we don’t realize how much we can influence the world around us and we forget the importance of our unique contribution to the projects where we are involved. We do things and we do not realize how much we are involved and how much we leave a signature in all of them.

My object for my future career is to be paid for the signature that I will be able to put on the things that I will do and for the signature that I will be able to leave in the people around me – my unique contribution to their professional and personal life project.

The nature is never following the rules of our models

I have studied electronic engineering at University. All the classes and subjects were deeply focused in studying and creating mathematical models representing the world and the nature around us. Every natural phenomenon in general can be modeled with a mathematical function. The function used can be very simple (linear approximations) or very complex (n-grade functions), can be real or complex, with analytic solutions or numeric solutions and so on. In any case we use these models in order to understand better the reality and to predict the future or the outcome of a system when applied a known stimulus.

When we make a project we rely on this knowledge in order to predict the behaviour of the system or the device that we are going to make. Especially in electronic engineering we are plenty of models, simulations and calculations that we must take in consideration even before doing any kind of test or qualification.

Sometimes we are disappointed because the results of our projects are not exactly as we expect them to be. Probably in 90% of the cases it is because we made a mistake. But in some other cases we have to consider that our projects are based on models and not always that models are perfect or accurate. In most of the cases these models are just a simplification of what it is the real world.

I remember my professor when made an example speaking about the property of materials – “if you find a strange materials which doesn’t follow the ohm’s law you can’t say that the material is not following the law, it’s ohm’s law that is not adequate. The nature is never following the rules of our models!”

Our models are just a simplification of the complexity of the nature. The nature is more complex, the world is complex. It is our responsibility to take this into account when we make a new project, a new design or when we implement a new idea. If the result of our project is not exactly as expect to be, then we have to broaden our perspective and consider that the model used is not enough adequate for our problem or even that the model that we really need is a combination of different knowledges and perspectives which could fit better for the solution we are searching for.

Do you really believe to not have enough creativity?

The title of this post is a kind of provocation. As my friend said in his post “importance of creativity”, creativity is fundamental in today competitive world.

I’m pretty sure that a lot of people if put in front of the question “are you a creative person?” would probably answer “no, not at all” or I can imagine a lot of persons who shares my background (electronic engineering) that probably will answer “of course not I’m a concrete person and I look at facts, formulas and numbers…”.

Well, probably few months ago my answer would have been the same, but after some months spent during my MBA the answer is a little different.

So what is it creativity? Well the answer is not easy and I’m not pretending to give you a complete and exhaustive definition, I just want to illustrate my point of view.

The word “creativity” comes from “to create”, so we can say that a creative person is someone able to create something. But in order to create something you need to have a base, a background, something to start from. We can imagine that creativity is very similar to the drawings that kids make. What they do is to try to represent the world according to what they know and according to the stimulus that they have received in their life. And it is impressive how the quality of the drawings improves the more they practice and the older they became. The reason is that they start to fill their background with more and more information and the new drawings start to be more complex, more precise and more “creative”. Basically they have more and more contents where to pick up something in order to create something new, or at least that looks new from their point of view.

When you became an adult the process is almost the same. The process of creativity is simply the ability to put together all your knowledge in order to create something that is out of the box, that looks different or that is different, but different from the point of view of the others which are observing “the creation”.

So keeping in mind my initial question “are you a creative person?” the answer is “of course I am”. I am a person with a unique combination of knowledge and this unique combination is giving me all the bases for been a creative person.

I’m really convinced that everybody is a creative person, the problem is that a lot of people don’t even realize that and tends to think always in the same way or to give up at the first problem. Being creative is not easy, it’s hard because first of all you must improve your base knowledge and secondly you have to force yourself to look out of the box, to think differently (or laterally) and to use all your ability to create connections, to pick up from different subjects, to use every insignificant piece of knowledge you have acquired in order “to create something that nobody has done before”.