alcramer [Alfredo Cramerotti]

Other motivations

Posted in Thoughts.Coaching by alcramer on November 18, 2008

That’s another snap at Mark McGuiness’s blog, which you can find here.
Extrinsic factors may have limited value as motivators but you can’t afford to ignore them — because they make excellent demotivators. Below some of these factors, which you – as a creative person – need to bear in mind, and possibly to implement in your profession.

Money: it is a clearly defined way of ‘keeping score’, measuring how highly regarded you are by your employer or your audience. Violinist Nigel Kennedy writes in his autobiography ‘I think if you’re playing music or doing art you can in some way measure the amount of communication you are achieving by how much money it is bringing in for you and for those around you’.

Recognition: the term ‘egoboo’ is used within the open source programming community, referring to the ‘ego boost’ you receive from being publicly credited for good work. So even though there’s no money involved, it’s not strictly true to say that open source programmers work ‘for nothing’. Poetry, or literature, is another creative medium with very little cash on offer, but which operates on a kind of ‘reputation economy’ — the higher your reputation, the more prestigious your publisher will be, the more magazines will want to take your work, the higher up the bill you will be on readings, etc.

Deadlines: as soon as you make a promise to someone else, you have an obligation to fulfil. Sometimes this can be just the push you need to get you through the wall of resistance that would otherwise lead to procrastination. ‘I know exactly what I need to do, but I’m more likely to do it if I’ve promised you do it by a certain date’. To get you going in the first place place, you sometimes need the extrinsic motivation of ‘deadline magic’.

There are probably other external motivations that come into the picture, but I believe the three above are the most essential ones. Also, very often they are those we encouter first, and only along the path other types of motivation may reveal to ourselves. (Such as those intrinsic, described in the previous post.)


Posted in Tools.Coaching by alcramer on November 5, 2008

Managing Intrinsic Motivation. That’s the subtitle of a post that Mark McGuinness published here.

The article is for those who need to manage creative people, not precisely for those who are. But – here comes the twist – it’s precisely what a creative professional needs to apply to her/himself too, no matter if you are your own boss. Even more effective, I’d say.

There we go:

By definition, intrinsic motivation works through spontaneity, pleasure and fascination — none of which can be served up to order. No wonder managing creative people is often described as ‘herding cats’, notoriously wilful and independent creatures. But if you can’t control it, you can coax it to some extent. Here are a few suggestions:

Set them (yourself) a challenge

Remember, creatives love a challenge. How can you make the brief more difficult? More inspiring? More extreme?

Define the (your) goal clearly

If there’s one thing worse than a boring or easy brief, it’s a vague one. ‘Write a story’ is terrible. ‘Write a superhero story’ isn’t much better. ‘Write a Batman story’ at least gives me something to work with. ‘Write a Batman story in which his identity is exposed’, or ‘where he lets himself and the city down’, or ‘where he loses all his gadgets and has to rely on his wits’ – now I’ve got something to get my teeth into.

Eliminate distractions and interruptions

Help them concentrate. Don’t interrupt them — or let others interrupt them — unless it’s important AND urgent. As far as possible, help them ‘batch’ meetings, conversations, and day-to-day tasks so that they don’t keep interfering with focused work. Whatever distractions arise, remind them that the work itself is their primary responsibility.

Match the (your) work to the worker (yourself)

Make it your business to know everyone on the team, including the kind of work they love to do. Whenever possible, give them tasks that suit their talents. Their reward will be more job satisfaction. Yours will be better results.

Let them (yourself) get on with it

This is a tricky one. Creatives hate being micromanaged and told what to do every step of the way. But ultimately you’re accountable for the work, so you need to make sure they are delivering on brief. If you’re a creative yourself, you’ll have to deal with the added temptation to show them how you would do it, and the fact that they may approach it in a very different way. There are no easy answers, but it helps if you’re very clear about what you are asking them to make, and your criteria for success, and then leave how to do it up to them.

Reward (your) behaviours, not results

At the US software developer SAS, managers are trained to reward those responsible for new initiatives before it becomes obvious whether the initiative has succeeded or failed. Why? Because their aim is to foster a culture of innovation. If they only rewarded successful projects, employees would be much more careful about proposing and acting on new ideas. This way, the company benefits from many more ideas and people who are more prepared to take a risk and try things out.

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