Understanding human motivation paves the way for the future of work.

At some level, we all sense what might happen if we don’t change the way we work… yet many of our institutions and organisations are stuck in the past.

The impact…

We’re witnessing a decline in mental and physical wellbeing. Businesses are experiencing staff disengagement and are struggling to retain people. Bureaucracy, and our need to control, are on the rise. Wages are stagnant. There’s growing inequality. And if that’s not enough, our collective behaviours are undoubtedly accelerating climate change, threatening the safety and security of billions of people.

It’s time to understand what we don’t understand.

Our efforts to apply more control to navigate the growing complexity of our world flies in the face of human nature…

The way we view ourselves, and each other, needs to change…

The research of psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan provide us with some much-needed direction. Deci and Ryan state that as humans, we come into the world naturally curious and ready to explore.

We don’t lack motivation to learn and grow; it’s inbuilt.

Their self-determination theory offers the view that people have three innate psychological needs:

    • autonomy,
    • competence and
    • the need to develop functional relationships with others.

This suggests then, that when given the right conditions people are naturally motivated and capable of self-direction.

So why don’t we experience more of this in our organisations?

Learned behaviour

As children, we’re not always encouraged to think for ourselves. We’re taught to comply and follow ‘rules.’ With this, comes a degree of internal conflict with human nature. Inherently we want to be self-directed and autonomous, none of us like being told what to do!

In many cases, children find themselves out of alignment with their true nature, as they succumb to a strong chain of command. They learn that it feels safe when being told what to do and how to do it. As a result, they gradually lose their curiosity and creative nature.

When we join the world of work as adults, we’re often met with more of the same; more control, more rules, more compliance. We may feel out of alignment with our true nature but find ourselves complying with perceived expectations. After all, our survival needs are on the line. We need to pay our bills and want to fit in. So, we conform with the organisational chain of command and in the process stifle our innate human motivation.

The consequence

As leaders, we wonder why people are struggling, disengaged, reluctant to take responsibility and need constant reassurance on what to do. Our inability to understand ourselves leaves many institutions heavily reliant on fear and leverage to get things done, putting people in a state of constant survival. When this mindset is prevalent, people are unlikely to take risks, experiment with new approaches, question procedure, speak their mind, or act outside the chain of command. We lose our uniquely human ability to apply logic and creativity to whatever we are doing.

Our vision to make work more human

Let’s be clear, there will never be a “one size fits all” way of working. There is no blueprint to create the perfect organisation. However, when we align ourselves with human nature, we liberate our innate human motivation to be self-determined, to create, to connect with one another and to contribute in meaningful ways.

Rather than viewing people and organisations as complicated problems to solve, we believe the evolution of work is in learning how to adopt a more agile approach, that encourages autonomy with responsibility.

But how do we make the shift towards a more human way of working?

It starts with truly understanding human motivation.

Stay with us and we’ll share insights as to how each of us can make a difference.

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