What is motivating one person to jump into a burning building to save someone else’s life? What is motivating an organisation to ignore the disruptor until it is too late? Or, what is motivating a country to open its borders to global influence?
I was reflecting on these questions for a while, particularly in the context of growth and the challenges people face when trying to achieve personal breakthroughs or organisational culture transformation. I assume that if we can understand and explain these motivations, we can direct our effort to have more, as related to the above examples, selflessness and innovation and less arrogance and decline.
In this post, Inspired by Richard Barrett theory, I present the cultural tipping point via a focus on a set of Breakthrough Values. I use this term in the context of organisational culture transformation. However, I believe the approach is also valid for individuals who want to achieve a breakthrough in their career.
Needs and Values explained
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is probably one of the most popular motivational theories in psychology. Maslow argued that humans are motivated by a hierarchy of needs, organised in five levels from the most basics to the highest. Humans tend to focus on the lower level needs before higher ones. The first four levels are described as Lack needs or External motivators. They drive motivation when they are unmet. While at the fifth level, needs are described as Growth needs or Intrinsic motivators. Where motivation increases the more the needs are fulfilled.
Values are intimately linked to our needs. Whatever we currently need, whatever we feel is important to us or what is unmet from our past is what we value. Richard Barrett argues that there are two types of values – positive values that promote growth and create internal cohesion and limiting values that are driven by fears and anxieties and can lead to stress and isolation. He also suggests that it is critical to maintaining a balanced spread of positive values to ensure both growth and grounding capabilities.
An updated model
Going back to the question “What is motivating an organisation to ignore the disruptor until it is too late?”. It might sound like a counter-intuitive question, as we usually think about motivation as a positive concept. However, the story of Kodak is a famous example. Kodak actually saw the future of digital cameras and that photos could be shared online. However, motivated to continue being the best and dominating the printing market they failed to see that photos shared online ARE the future market. What Kodak was missing might have been valuing courage to change direction and adapting to a totally new world. All humans and organisations are motivated to fulfil the Lack Needs. And while as humans we also have the desire to reach full potential, many of us get stuck, spending excessive effort in a space, where reputation and success are a common concern.
In a previous post, I discussed the fact that the dominating culture across the western world is a culture obsessed with success, defined as “I am great and you are not”. This culture lacks focus on core values that create growth. Latest trends in management consultancy advice are highlighting the need for organisations to adopt values like teamwork, creativity and purpose. However, the move from fulfilling lack needs to growth needs require a breakthrough step to overcome our implicit assumptions and fears.
I suggest that to have a breakthrough toward achieving full potential, organisations should reach a cultural tipping point by adopting and focusing on breakthrough values. Values like Courage, perseverance, accountability, continues learning, and adaptability that enables overcoming fears hence opening the opportunities for growth. These values combined with a balanced set of positive values addressing both Lack and Growth needs will allow organisations to achieve their potential while maintaining feet on the ground and offer stability at times of real crisis.
The below diagram describes the cultural tipping point as an updated version of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Nest steps for reaching a cultural tipping point
In order to get on the journey organisations can take the following steps:
- Understand the organisation’s actual core values and implicit assumptions using a validated framework or a model. Unfortunately, people are unaware of their culture until it is challenged, until they experience a new culture, or until it is made explicit through a framework or model.
- Acknowledge the implicit assumptions that are driving excessive focus on limiting values. Then, reframe to eliminate these from the organisation. Regardless what future culture leadership might want to create, reducing the negative effect of limiting values is critical.
- Prioritise focus on breakthrough values; define the set of behaviours that are demonstrated through these values; and, take the first step in making decisions based on these values.
- Once an organisation is able to understand how values, implicit assumptions and culture are all linked together to enable performance and embedded its set breakthrough values, it can move to embrace a future set of values for continues growth.
@Hadas Wittenberg is a Future of Work enabler and founder of Adaptive-Futures. Hadas helps organisations and individuals’ growth through reimagining work.
Researches are showing that purpose-inspired organisations tend to outperform their competitors. It also shows that most organisations’ leaders believe that purpose is important for the long-term success. So what is a purpose-inspired organisation and why would you care about working for one?
An organisation purpose is “an aspirational reason for being, which inspires and provides a call to action.” (EY Beacon Institute). A purpose is not about economic exchanges or returns to shareholders. It is about wanting to make a difference for others. It is the legacy to leave behind. Purpose explains how the people involved with an organisation are making a difference, gives them a sense of meaning, enables their passion and draws their support. When you are part of a purpose-inspired organisation, you are more likely to believe in its future success. You are also able to connect on a deeper level and express your own values and purpose through work.
Organizations whose primary focus is on their own financial performance do not create the competitive differentiation or emotional engagement with their customers that is required for lasting success. 87% of consumers believe companies perform best over time if their purpose goes beyond profit. Simon Sinek explains why it is important to create an emotional engagement in his famous talk (watched over 5M times) start with why – how great leaders inspire action.
Not all of us find purpose in the work we do, and hence we drag with us this nagging feeling that we were meant for something greater.
An article published by the NY Time (Why you hate work) found Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any driver for employees’ satisfaction. These employees reported 1.7 times higher overall job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work.
Profit and purpose do not contradict, but rather complement each other. It is important to find a healthy balance for focus. However an overemphasis on profit points the organization inward, employee’s tend to focus on short-term gains, leaders often get distracted by novel trends, tend to give up when the going gets tough, silos build, and mediocrity eventually prevails. It is easy to see why purpose inspired organisation that creates loyal and passionate customers and partners and engaged employees has better chances of creating long-lasting success.
@Hadas Wittenberg is a Future of Work Enabler