Pink Drive

Just been reading Dan Pink’s latest book Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us. One of those books I read to confirm everything I already believe about motivation.

As Pink says, we’ve know what really motivates people for decades, but we still cling to motivational techniques (eg pay linked to KPIs) that all the research shows actually reduce performance. (OK, that’s a simplified version of his argument but it will do for here.)

There are many radical suggestions in this book – for example perhaps ‘management’ is an out of date concept!

Thinking of performance based pay and salary I couldn’t help but continually thinking about Enron and more recently the GFC.

One thing I didn’t like was his analogy with software systems. He refers to Motivation 2.0 and Motivation 3.0. Fundamentally this is a great analogy. Where it breaks down is in the 2.0 and 3.0 bits. Anyone involved with computer systems knows you don’t go from 2.0 to 3.0. You have 2.0, 2.0.1, 2.0.3, 2.1, 2.1.1, 2.1.1 release 2 etc, etc until you get to about 2.5. When you get there you start working on 3.0 while you still supporting 2.6 and 2.7. At some stage you are ready to switch over to version 3.

The technical aspect of this is not important. What IS important is that we didn’t suddenly jump from motivation 2.0 to motivation 3.0. There were a whole lot of steps in the process (as Pink documents.) What bothers me in the way he presents it is it looks like just another big discovery and we all need to do this massive shift away from what we have been doing to what we should be doing.

The business literature is all too full of this tripe and in this respect Pink has fallen into his own trap. If we did want to move away from our current models of motivation, we would need to do it gradually. Try out bits of it here and there. Or do a 90 day trial and see how it works.

Regardless, with this one caveat, I highly recommend this book.

The modern world began in 1919

“The Modern World began on 29 May 1919 when photographs of a solar eclipse, taken on the island of Principe off West Africa and at Sobral in Brazil, confirmed the truth of a new theory of the universe.”1 The new theory of the universe was Einstein’s General Relativity, a radical, mysterious, new explanation of gravity, destined to replace the more intuitive and accessible theory of Isaac Newton that had inspired and sustained the Enlightenment.”

Paul Johnson Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties


I finally got around to watching this talk by Seth Godin on Tribes this morning.

It got me thinking about another discussion I’ve been having recently on Thought Leaders Central regarding the perennial Mac vs PC debate. We don’t make buying decisions based on which product best suits our needs at the lowest cost. At one point or other we generally join a tribe (in this case Mac or PC) and then pretty much just buy whatever everyone else in the tribe buys. We ever try to bring others into our tribe.

When I first started thinking about this I thought we did this for social/emotional reasons. We like belonging to a tribe and we like to wear the badges of that tribe.

While I still think that’s true, I wonder if there is a pure economic element to it as well. Belonging to the tribe means we don’t have to spend time comparing all possible options when we are looking for a new product – we buy what the tribe buys. This might result in us having a product that does not quite suit our needs as much as another product and we might pay slightly more than we need to. However, we have save ourselves a lot of time and energy comparing all the available products. As well its likely other members of the tribe have already tried the product we’re thinking about and they’ll give us a good indication if it will live up to our expectations. This seems pretty efficient to me.

Symphony and the power of intention

In this article I discuss the connection between AWARENESS, INTENTION and SYMPHONY.

When you walked in the front door of your office this morning what was in your mind? I’m guessing there were probably 101 things ranging from dealing with an under-performing staff member to the argument you had with your teenager this morning. Perhaps there was a good segment on the radio that made you think and you were still pondering as you came through the door.

That’s usually a fair description of my state of mind as I walk into my office. However something I read just before I went to sleep last night made me think about how we all do this and in doing so we miss so much. The particular phrase is not important, just that it made me stop and think.

It made me think about the source of my awareness. What was I paying attention to? As I drove down the road was I aware that there were real people in the cars going past? What sort of day might they be having? When I take all the people I pass or pass me on the way to work is there one particular message I’m picking up? Maybe. Maybe not. I won’t know unless I tune in and become aware of the source of my attention.

If you do this your awareness becomes heightened. Now go back to the front door of your office again. (You can do this in your mind if you like.) What did you see when you came in? What was the mood? Who was there? What were they doing? What were they wearing?

Now ask yourself again what you were thinking about and how you felt as you came in the door. What was your intention? Did you have an overarching intention for the day?

So often I get to my desk and just start doing whatever is on it. I forget why I am there and what is important. I forget my compelling vision. Why I am doing what I’m doing.

So can I ask you to go back to the front door of your office once again (in your mind again is fine.) This time, just before you open the door, stop for a moment. Think about your intention for this day. What is it you want to achieve? What single message do you want to convey to your team?

If you can really focus on your intention, you’re ready to conduct a symphony. Not a physical orchestra but a metaphorical one. The conductor works with each part of the orchestra and then brings them all together for the performance. Each section coming in at exactly the right moment with just the right sensitivity of phrasing. One moment making the gentlest softest sound and the next with every instrument ringing to its full volume.

This is your job. To bring all the different skills, personalities and viewpoints of your team into one performance. You don’t want to make them the same – how dull would that be? You want the different instruments ringing out a tune in tune and in time with the rest of the orchestra.

Imagine that before you walk in the door. Your intention for the day is to conduct one of the greatest symphonies every performed and it’s all going to happen within the boundaries of your organisation.

Further Reading:

Human Potential and Hope

I came across this piece by Marcia Devlin this morning.

The first part of her post reminded me of my Grade 6 teacher. (A Mr Horn, if I remember correctly.) Now I liked Mr Horn very much. I thought he was an engaging teacher who always made us think. But I do remember him one day looking around the class and saying, quite seriously and matter of factly, “I don’t think any of you will go to university.”

I now have four degrees and I know one other member of the same class has a PhD.

Predictions are not really very useful. I could go on about that but the part of Marcia’s post that really caught my attention was :

I’m a bit taken lately with human potential ideology and hope theory. The former moves away from deficit models to models of human potential and the latter promotes the generation and pursuit of goals. (links added.)

I was excited by just the thought of these concepts. How would it be if we were to move away from all this talk about (inherently self-limiting) standards in education and moved towards finding the potential in each child in our care? That instead of focussing on all that is wrong with our world, we were to move towards generating hope.

Our previous prime minister was famous for saying he wanted Australians to be relaxed and comfortable. On reflection, this sounds like an opium for the masses. It sounds a long way from finding the potential in every member of our society and generating hope.

Education is currently dominated by standards. What if it were dominated by potential and hope?

Business leaders are evaluated on achievement against “key performance indicators.” What if they were evaluated against the extent to which they developed their organisation’s potential? What if they were evaluated against their achievement in promoting hope, both within their organisation and in the wider community?

Lot’s of questions I know. You didn’t really expect me to provide answers did you?

Further reading:

The Dangers of the Human Potential Movement.

The Heroic CEO (again)

Late last year I was at one of the usual round of Christmas
I attend each year. Also as usual, I found myself talking to
a new acquaintance explaining that I work as a Leadership Mentor when a third
person joined the group. The conversation moved to executive remuneration
and specifically CEO remuneration. During the conversation my new found colleague
turned to me and said

“You’d know this — the CEO makes the difference”.

I replied “The CEO makes a difference.”

He was unconvinced and repeated his earlier assertion.

At this stage I deferred — neither of us was going to change our position.
If my colleague is reading this I must say, with greatest respect, I still
disagree with you.

And still, after 20 years as a consultant, I remain absolutely amazed at the
predominance of this view. It is beyond the scope of this short piece to delve
into a deep discussion of Wilfred
, but it seems to me that the unchallengeable way in which this
view of the messianic CEO is discussed in business almost indicates a very
large group Basic Assumption Dependency.

Briefly, Major Wilfred Bion, whose task it was to provide therapy to thousands
of soldiers returned from the Second World War, after studying the many many
groups he worked with developed a description of group behaviour in which every
group was, in fact, two groups — the Work Group and the Basic
Assumption Group
. The Work Group was the group that any observer could
see. A group assigned to and attempting to complete a task. Bion suggested
that in addition to this the group behaved as if some basic assumption
were true — ie it was simultaneusly operating at two levels. The visible
(work group level) and the invisible (basic assumption) level.

From his observations, Bion suggested that all groups acted with one of three
Basic Assumptions: Dependency, Fight-Flight or Pairing. For the purposes
of this piece I will only discuss the first of these — Dependency — and
briefly at that.

Anything I write here will undoubtably reflect what has already be written
by others, so I will simpy quote from

In this state, the group seeks a leader who will relieve them of all anxiety. This leader is thus invested with omnipotence and is expected to be able to solve all problems.

If this magical leader does not perform up to scratch, then the leader will be attacked and a replacement sought. Thus a cycle of leader-seeking, idealization and denigration occurs.

Does this sound familiar? The company is not performing as well as we want
it to so we bring in a new CEO. If the CEO is any good, they can solve all
the company’s problems. If they don’t solve all the problems then they are
not up to scratch and everyone from the board to the business press will point
out there shortcomings.

Yes, I have seen many CEOs and leaders who have almost single handedly wrecked
their organisations and I have seen a very few individuals who have inspired
their teams to achieve beyond their wildest dreams. But most CEOs I have met
are somewhere in the middle. They lead a multi talented team — a team
in which they had only a small part in putting together. Sure they can set
the tone for the day to day work of the company’s employees and they have the
final say on the most important decisions. However, the company’s success or
otherwise depends first and foremost on the uniqueness of its products and
services and the way they are marketed. This in turn is dependent on the company’s
culture. Something that is built into its DNA. The CEO can’t change this. They
can influence it. They can make decisions that make best use of it. They can
affect the performance levels of their people to some degree. But they can’t
single handedly mandate and make happen large scale change.

I was reminded of this when I read this
by Greg Baum in Melbourne’s The
yesterday. For those of you from non-Cricket playing countries,
I may need to tell you that the Australian
Cricket Team
has just suffered
its first loss in a series at home since 1992/1993 (having lost the Second
to South Africa.)

Baum notes the predictable reaction

In the aftermath, fingers of blame
have been pointed in all directions: the selectors, the captain, Cricket
Matthew Hayden, Andrew


Captain Ricky
has worn the brunt of the criticism.
This is the captain’s lot, but it is also a manifestation of the syndrome
by which the leader of a sporting team — the captain in cricket, the
coach in football — is made not only to account for his team, but
personify it, so obviating the need for any more complex
or subtle study
Hence, Ponting’s failings are Australia’s, Australia’s Ponting’s, all in
one soundbite. (My emphasis added)

Again, does this sound familiar? The second sentence eminently qualifies
Baum as a business analyst. Particularly the part I emphasised.

Buam hits the nail on the head regarding the problem with our belief in
the messianic
It is too simple and it obviates the need for any deeper
study of the organisation.

This would not be so much a problem if the wellbeing of us all was not
bound up in business. Our governments provide grants, low interest loans
and incentives to business because they believe it will grow the economy.
As we have seen in recent times, we all depend on a healthy economy. When
the economy dips we all suffer.

How much more efficient would business be if it were not transfixed by
the fantasy of a heroic CEO?

A Different Kind of Blind Spot

Welcome to the first edition of The Spiral Path – the companion newsletter
to my Spiral Path blog.

In this newsletter, I refer to the concepts of Quantum Leadership® and
The Spiral Path™. You can find out more about these concepts on my website.

Over the last half a year I have given a lot of thought to what I might write
about in this the premiere edition of The Spiral Path. I’ve written
myself notes and possible titles have come and gone in my mind. In the end
though, I have come back to my very first thought – the concept of our
Blind Spot. I am heavily indebted to C.
Otto Scharmer
* for the central insight
of this article as well as many of his words that I will quote directly.

When we think about our blind spot, we think about something that is in front
of us but we can’t see it. A colleague I was discussing this with recently
observed “it’s something we don’t want to see.” There
are certainly many of those, but I want to talk about a different view of
the blind spot. Something that is within the range of our perception but is,
in fact, invisible.

Read more

Csikszentmihalyi and Flow

If we’re so rich, why aren’t we happy?

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
(pronounced chick-sent-me-high-ee)
C.S. and D.J. Davidson Professor of Psychology and Management at The
Drucker School, Claremont Graduate University
, is mainly known for his work in flow
in creativity. Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as:

being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.

According to The Monitor on Pschology

[Martin] Seligman describes Csikszentmihalyi as the world’s leading
researcher on a subject that is near and dear to his heart — positive psychology.
He says Csikszentmihalyi’s work on improving lives has been important in his
own effort to encourage psychologists to focus on building human strengths.
“He is the brains behind positive psychology, and I am the voice,” says
Seligman. Csikszentmihalyi is working with Seligman to engage young leading
psychologists to focus on prevention and building human strength.

Probably his most well know work is Flow
the psychology of optimal experience

Churchill’s never give-in speech

I have often retold the story of Winston Churchill visiting his old
school, Harrow during
the second world war.

According the story, the boys were told that Churchill, as Prime Minister
of Great Britain was a very wise man and they should listen very carefully
to what he would tell them. The were ushered into the school hall and
sat ready to hear to words of the great man.

At the appropriate time in the assembly, Churchill was introduced
to the boys. He stood up solemnly, looked at the boys and said “Never
give in, never give in, never, never, never, never give in.”

I was sure I first heard this story reading Martin
S. Churchill: Finest Hour, 1939-1941.

I will have to go and re-read Gilbert’s book because according to The
Churchill Centre
, Churchill actually gave a much
longer speech

(Updated Churchill link 4/4/2010)

Private Equity

Unless you’ve been asleep, hibernating, or out of the country for
the last 12 months, you will be well aware that the Private Equity
phenomenon has well and truly hit Australia.

I can’t remember when it actually hit my radar, but the KKR bid
for Coles
[Updated 20/4/07] last year (ie 2006) was one
of the first to come to my attention. I was certainly aware that KKR
was part of the successful bid for Myer,
but that didn’t seem to be much cause for concern. Coles
hadn’t known what to do with the iconic and once hugely successful
Myer brand for a long time and its stores were floundering despite Dawn
best efforts. Count in that the consortium included
the Myer Family and it all seemed like a good idea.

But then the separate semi hostile bid for Coles raised a lot of hackles
in the community here. Coles was another iconic Australian brand grown
from the battler success story of C.J. Coles — albeit suffering at
the hands of the much more successful Woolworths.
A lot of Australians just didn’t like the idea of big money from the
USA trampelling all over our heritage.

But the big one of course has been the APA bid for Qantas.
There’s nothing much more iconic than the Flying Kangaroo.
Unlike Myer and Coles, Qantas is a succesful business. But Qantas represents
more than an icon. It represents the working conditions of thousands
of Australians and more than a million people in this country value
(like me) our Qantas frequent
Now of course APA claims to be majority Australian
owned and Australian controlled – it needs to be to satisfy the conditions
of the Qantas sale act. However a significant amount
of foreign money is involved in the bid and questions remain around
the degree to which the act applies to Qantas’ subsidiary Jestsar.
What will happen to the working conditions of QANTAS and Jetsar employees.
Will they all be moved to Australian Workplace Agreements,
in the process losing hard won benefits? Will maintenance operations
be moved overseas? And, for millions of Australians, what will happen
to my frequent flyer points.

Notwithstanding that I think the last of these questions is really
of much import, the others are of great concern to those involved and
represent possible encroaching by example of the working conditions
of millions of Australians.

However, to my mind, none of these is the most important concern.
What bothers me most is whether the private equity partners in this
deal (or any other for that matter) have any concern for what happens
to their prey in the long term. Take Qantas as a case in point. APA
cares for one thing and one thing only – the profit they can make from
the deal. My concern is that APA will simply convert value into cash
in its own pockets.

Now I might be wrong about this. Certainly the supporters of private
equity argue that these arrangements enable owners to free themselves
of the short-termism of public equity. They can be allowed to make
losses, or at least not grow profit at the rate required by the market
for extended periods. This, in our mind, is a good thing.

However, is this really what they will do?

I guess we will have to wait and see.