Culture of Intrinsic Motivation LO10093

Randolph Jennings (
Fri, 20 Sep 1996 14:40:26 -0500

Replying to LO10078 --

>Roxanne S. Abbas wrote in The Unlearning Organization LO9990
>>We must also get rid of the many other
>>obstacles that prevent employees from being able to do "a good day's
>>work". Build a culture where intrinsic motivation can provide true joy
>>from working.

To which Bill Hobler added in LO10078

>I think this culture is rare, if non-existent. It would be interesting to
>develop a view of what constitutes such a culture. What characteristics,
>values, principles ... would encourage people's interior motivation toward
>their work?

This is, indeed, an interesting question, which I would shift in emphasis
to: what would encourage people's interior motivation toward *our* work.
I have always worked in non-profit organizations, and now in higher
education, and in all of these organizations the individuals involved have
a very high level of personal commitment to what they perceive the service
to be. The challenge is to expand this interior motivation to a
commitment to what the organization must accomplish. While these are
usually similar, they do not often completely overlap. When I talk to
people in the for-profit world, it doesn't seem hard to uncover the thing
that makes people interested in their jobs (like actually enjoying sales,
or product design, or marketing, etc.), but it seems equally difficult for
most people to connect their individual efforts to some larger purpose.

What I've been puzzling over lately is how to cultivate a common
understanding of the whole enterprise. The way I think of "enterprise"
certainly includes the organizations in which people work, but it also
includes the context in which these organizations work. For example, the
college for which I work has a very clear mission statement, we have a
faculty that has very strong--but almost completely unspoken--expectations
of what goes on in the classroom and in their research activities, and we
even have a few people who think long, hard, and well about the future.
But on the whole we don't have an explicit, shared sense of the context in
which we work. This makes us a very sluggish organization, whcih is to
say, pretty typical. For better or worse, higher education has been
relatively immune to some of the changes with which many of you in other
industries have had to cope. In the long run this probably means that as
the forces of change catch up with us, we will be jolted harder, over a
more compressed period of time.

Several LO threads in recent months have helped with this question,
especially the explicit knowledge and leadership discussions, but I still
struggle with this basic question about how to cultivate the idea of the
enterprise in the mind of *everyone* involved. My current strategy is
simply to keep talking out loud about it, figuring that if we start enough
conversations in enough places across the organization, other people will
take up enough of the question that a community-wide understanding will
take root and grow. Does anyone have other good habits to suggest?

(By the way, I have been lurking since before the messages were numbered,
without ever properly introducing myself. The short version is that I
have kicked around a variety of non-profit organizations in the arts,
education, and publishing, and have happily landed at a private liberal
arts college, where I work with faculty and staff members on program
development, raise money for special projects, and direct a community-wide
strategic planning process. There is no question in my mind that I have
more fun per day than anyone else in the organization, being something of
an intellectual dilettante with license to question everything. So,
Hello! to all of you, and thank you for nearly two years of
thought-provoking conversation. I'll be wearing one of Rick's "LO"
buttons at the STiA conference this year, and hope to see some familiar
names pass by.)



Randolph Jennings Special Assistant to the President for Strategic Planning Assistant Director, Government/Foundation Relations E-mail: <> St. Olaf College Telephone: 507-646-3009 <> Northfield, Minnesota 55057-1098

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