You’ve heard the phrase ‘knowledge is power’? Well, the knowledge in understanding why and what motivates us in today’s ever-changing world is vital to any desired success. Understanding motivation, what makes us tick, what makes us get out of bed in the morning, what drives us on and why we do what we do is an imperative base from which to plan forward from. It underpins any adaption we need to make to change and once fully grasped is the bedrock for the next steps. It is also key in how to stay motivated while business is changing, especially when things get a bit tricky.
Understanding motivation requires reflection
To begin to get to grips with understanding motivation we must look back over mankind’s history and the first thing to appreciate is that change is not new. It has been happening to us for as long as humans have existed.
Millennia ago we started off as hunter gatherers. We didn’t have to worry about how to stay motivated because we had to hunt for the basics to keep us alive, so survival was all the motivation we needed back then. We weren’t concerned with understanding motivation, we were fighting sabre toothed tigers.
Then about 12,000 years ago the Agricultural Revolution happened. We settled down and began farming. We cultivated the basics that we still needed to stay alive and survival was still our prime motivation.
We then fast forward to 500 years ago and the Scientific Revolution began. That’s when we began to understand the laws of physics, chemistry and biology and we gained the capacity to start traveling the world, particularly the Europeans. We started making discoveries of new countries and we learned how to exploit them.
Understanding motivation – the shift to reward motivation
It’s at this stage that capitalism begins and shifted us from us from the Survival motivation focussing on the basics we needed to live, to money and possessions, which to us began to equal success. That is what I am terming as the Reward motivation. Now understanding motivation becomes more complex, our responses more layered.
Fast forward again to 200 years ago when the Industrial Revolution starts. We then take even greater steps forward as we become mechanized and start using machinery to help us do our tasks. Our motivation to succeed in terms of money and possessions becomes easier. We feel if we apply ourselves we deserve to be rewarded. Hence the Reward motivation. Understanding motivation becomes a matter of what do we get if we put in the work?
Then we jump to 1968 and the start of the Computer Revolution. The dawn of the information age. Our motivation to succeed, our Reward motivation, becomes digitized.
Then we hit 1990 – the Internet Age and the World Wide Web. We then moulded these tools so that they fitted into our ideals to satisfy our Reward motivation. This is also the beginning of a perception that instant gratification is achievable.
And now we stand on the cusp of Quantum computers, AI, cyborg and nano-technology.
Understanding motivation and the pace of change
The thing to notice here, within all of these seismic changes, is the shortening of the time periods in which we have had to adapt.