Latest Human Dymensions Newsletter

The Magic of Motivation In the last newsletter the discussion commenced with the importance of imagination in the management of risk. In this newsletter I would like to discuss the importance of self-motivation and inspiration in understanding and imagining risk.

The delightful little book by Edward L. Deci Why We Do What We Do, is a splendid introduction into the nature of motivation. For a more in-depth view try Vohs and Baumeister, Handbook for Self Regulation.

Understanding motivation is ‘bread and butter’ for educators and teachers. Yet, for those in industries that demand safety, risk or security ownership, an understanding of motivation rarely gets any attention in training. Instead, the focus is so much on the content of risk, safety and security, rather than the process of communicating, inspiring and motivating people to self regulate their approach to safety and risk. What a different world safety would be if Novak’s book Learning How to Learn was made a priority rather than an endless preoccupation with punitive and consequence-focused approaches.

In the March/April issue of Scientific American Mind Amishi Jha writes about mindfulness, attention and developing focus. How often are people deemed to be unmotivated when in fact they are caught in either a trance or autopilot through repetition, fatigue or systems overload. Jha reports on experiments that show that attention and focus can be cultivated and attention increased.

Motivation requires that people see and feel a relationship between their thinking and behaviour and a desired outcome. The idea that consequence in and of itself is motivational is not supported by the evidence. Indeed, punishment may deliver control but rarely a sense of inspiration and ownership. Punishment is something that is done to another, motivation is something that is created and generated within us. Intrinsic (internal) motivation is far more powerful than extrinsic (external) control.  Even rewards with controlling intent lose their effectiveness because they reduce the autonomy of the person who is being controlled.

Recent research by Dr Susanne Bahn of Edith Cowan University, demonstrated that approximately 50% of new employees in organisations fail to properly identify hazards and understand associated risks. This was tested following the presentation of 60 specific hazards in an induction.

So often inductions are non-motivating because they are not focused on learning, but rather the quickest and easiest data dump. Or, some inductions are so extensive that participants are ‘flooded’ and suffer cognitive overload. Organisations that prioritise learning, give greater attention to instructional design and methodology for learning. Unfortunately, the online approach is also severely flawed and overrated from a learning perspective. Again, the priority of content over process rules the selection of method, as if relationships are secondary to learning.

From 1994-2006 I was involved in teacher education in one form or another. So many beginning teachers used to some bright eyed and enthusiastic to learn the right techniques for teaching. Many used to leave disappointed after the first lecture when I used to make it clear that effective teaching was about creating a learning environment built on relationships, not the presentation of content. Those fixed on content rarely motivated and inspired enthusiasm, those who developed inspiring relationships found that motivation and learning were like magic with ownership for learning and self regulating the by-product. The safety and security industry have a lot to learn from teacher education.

The most inspiring educators I know are Guy Claxton, Ken Robinson, Howard Gardner, Palker J Palmer and Bernie Neville. If you want to learn about motivating others to learn, start reading their works.

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