Motivation: Is it Nature, Nurture or Both?

Post By: Ashish Rajadhyaksha

What is Motivation?

Motivation can broadly be defined as a psychological feedback loop that directs and enables one to satisfy unfulfilled needs and desires.  Management books are full of motivation theories such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of NeedsHerzberg’s Two-Factor Theory, Locke’s Goal-Setting Theory9, and Victor Vroom’s Expectancy Theory.

However, these concepts focus on an individual and fail to consider important influences such as Culture, Circumstances , Family Upbringing, and our Work/Learning Environment that change not only our perception of ourselves, but also teach us adaptability through inter-locking of both nature and nurture.

So in order to provide a more composite picture of what drives motivation, I have created a Five Drivers model that looks at internal, external and circumstantial influences that could be utilized to examine human behavior for achieving higher goals and objectives.  To be sure, these factors may overlap from time to time, and are applicable to both entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs alike in their implementation of organizational effectiveness.

Five-Drivers of Motivation by Ashish Rajadhyaksha

Internal:  Internal motivation is what we’re born with, forms our core, and what shapes our personality and character.  It starts a classic dilemma of Nature v/s Nurture.

Family Upbringing /Culture:  It’s a by-product of the cultural ethos that provide us with our value system,ethics & principles that shape our initial learning, our views of the world, our surroundings, and how we interact with our environment.

Friends:  Our friends form a life-long support system that motivates us to achieve loftier goals, keeps us grounded in reality, and shields us from unsavory situations.

Work & Learning:   Our work environments prepare us to be perpetual students, and motivate us

Environment: Through positive and negative feedback loop mechanisms to become better managers and leaders.

Circumstances: There’s no better teacher than life and all the curves that it throws at us.  Without some of these life-altering events, we would never be able to separate “Men from the Boys”.

To be applicable, a theory needs to be generalizable through wider applications, and overcome at least some of the objections of the current popular theories.  So my model looks at a few applications to see if perhaps through more frequent communication, both large organizations and entrepreneurs can create better employees.

General Application of the Five-Drivers of Motivation:

Internal:  ● As individuals have different drives, so instead of group projects, managers could provide customized tasks and roles for speedier project execution.● Compensation be made more variable than fixed to promote entrepreneurship within the group rather than inflation-adjusted pay scales, but without overly penalizing underperformers who could provide more of a support role to higher performers.
Family Upbringing/Culture:  ● Some families and cultures are more nurturing and supportive than others.  So through understanding the family upbringing and cultural nuances, managers may create an appropriate support system for employees to handle stress more effectively.● Health and wellness is another area where management can utilize family background and dynamics to create a healthier lifestyle and motivation for the employees.● If a family has a history of frequent travel and exploring, perhaps such an individual is better suited to a sales job.  Keeping them chained to a chair all day long mayn’t be productive for their long-term growth as employees and for their curios mind.
Friends:  ● A throwback to childhood, “Buddy” feedback system at work rather than individual performance reviews could help motivate individual employees to learn from each other.● Job performance reviews are done confidentially for a reason.  No one wants to say negative things openly and face retaliation.  Whether this helps an organization is an open question.  Perhaps a group review maybe in the better interests of employers the way elections highlight general mood.
Work & Learning Environment:  ● Individuals get motivated not just by their immediate circle, but also through work and knowledge environments.  By creating a continuous learning environment, managers can keep employees engaged and highly motivated.● People with similar motivation levels and knowledge base usually tend to gravitate towards each other.  Hedge Fund traders full of Type A personalities work together and take undue risks together.  Such groups need Type B anchors to pull them back a bit.
Circumstances:  ● Without WWII, world mayn’t have known how great a leader Winston Churchill would become.  Same thing goes for President Lincoln.  In business settings, managers need to frequently put their employees through fire to test their mettle and commitment.● Knowing where someone came from usually helps in figuring out where they’ll go.  Illegal immigrants in the U.S. get huge flak for taking away jobs, but the type of jobs they do, no one else would be willing to take.  Their circumstances and desperation is a motivator for them to build a better life for themselves and their children despite the hardships.

Motivation is a state of mind and attitude rather than simplistic classification of whether you are born a leader or not as is usually debated.  If we can work hard and with dedication for ourselves and expect our employees to do the same, then why don’t some of us do that with equal motivation for our employers?

Could it be that we aren’t engaged and challenged enough or is it a simple nature v/s nurture thing?
What do you think?


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