Overpowering motivators

New technologies for lending a hand and caring for others won't gain traction like tools we can show off and stockpile. Extrinsic motivators overpower intrinsic motivation so thoroughly we lose any sense of self motivation. In Daniel Pink's book: Drive, he explored seven deadly flaws of contingent (extrinsic) rewards:

  1. Extinguishing intrinsic motivation
  2. Diminishing performance
  3. Crushing creativity
  4. Crowding out good behavior
  5. Encouraging cheating, shortcuts and unethical behavior
  6. Becoming addictive
  7. Fostering short term thinking

Said another way, we become possessed by our possessions. We lose sight of who we are, what we really want and how we can make a difference on others' lives. We become possessed by the urge to possess more possessions. We get hooked on gaining the world and losing our soul of meaning, purpose and genuine fulfillment. Our lives become increasing empty, desperate and driven rather than validating, calming and free of fixations.

Extrinsic motivators don't merely compete with intrinsic motivation, they annihilate it. Extrinsic motivators don't offer a choice between greedy accumulation of more stuff and creative reuses and reduction of clutter, they eliminate creativity. Extrinsic motivators don't merely make ways to show off seem rewarding, they turn it into an addiction.

For these reasons, motivators are far more powerful than mediators when the two function at cross purposes. Paycheck prisons win out over social media. Job requirements and rewards defeat the widespread compassion mobilized by new technologies.


Mediators vs motivators

Some of us have jobs or school work which requires the use of our smart phones, PDA's, tablets or Wifi connected laptops. Most of us are torn between what we're paid to do and what we're getting mediated to do by these new technologies. When put into competition, the extrinsic motivators of employment will usually win out over the mediating influences of technologies.

When we're getting mediated by social, communication or other technological media, we're feeling powerful. The tool has amplified or extended our previous abilities. We experience more freedom to maneuver, connect and express ourselves. We become deeply invested in this magical effect on our abilities. We keenly aware of every opportunity to utilize, it, enhance it or show off it's functionality. We'll go out of our way to accommodate the technological requirements. We'll even become addicted to the tool for awhile without realizing how hung up we've become. We've been mediated by the media we're using.

Marshall McLuhan perceived all these subliminal effects that every technology has had on human minds, emotions and conduct. We saw the effects on incumbent institutions of these new extensions. He presumed that the electronic technologies would have the same spell binding effects as the introduction of the Phoenician alphabet, printing press and automobile. He also foresaw the digital age reversing the usual explosion of tools, uses, users and supporting infrastructures. He anticipated this next array of advances would be experienced as an implosion. Rather than extending our reach, the world could now reach us;  "coming into our living rooms" on TV. Nowadays the world even finds us wherever we are currently located via our Wifi, G3/G4, GPS and cellular signal technologies.

McLuhan did a very good job of questioning what could overpower the established regime of mechanized factory production, transportation, communication and education. It appears he failed to question what could overpower those overpowering influences of new media. In my view, extrinsic motivators have far deeper and more lasting influence than any media. It's not the factory mechanisms that are built to last, it's the managerial and governmental schemes for incentivising, recognizing and rewarding goal attainments that are here to stay. What we now know about the effects of extrinsic rewards on brains, decisions and conduct reveals how motivators can win out when competing with media for influence on individuals, groups and cultures. What we've learned about our inherent irrationality sides with the overpowering influence of motivators.

to be further continued ....


Questioning the persistence of steady jobs

When Marshall McLuhan was pondering all the implications of a shift from mechanical to electronic technologies, he foresaw the replacement of steady jobs with roles in flux. He perceived steady jobs as by-products of factory models for getting work done. He regarded jobs as fragmented and sequential like every mechanical technology. He suspected jobs would get obsolesced by the unifying influence of electronics (a.k.a. the digital age). He anticipated that we would be functioning with more improvisation, iteration and fluidity as we now are with our online technologies.

The planet is still littered with people seeking job opportunities, getting job offers and holding onto their jobs in downturns. Enterprises continue to hire people to perform jobs with clearly defined responsibilities and accountabilities. Job holders perform routine functions which yield measurable results. This raises several questions about McLuhan's forecast:

  1. Does the transition to roles only apply to electronic interactions (text messages, phone calls, collaborative game play, photo sharing, etc.)?
  2. Are jobs persisting because so many goods and services are continually produced by mechanistic means?
  3. Is the increased use of temps, contract employees and free lancers a response to the impacts of digital technologies on work processes?
  4. Will those holding jobs continue to create job openings and acculturate those who are adept digitally into performing mechanically and anachronistically?
  5. Will digital technologies take even deeper effect on outlooks, values and desires in ways that will make "jobs" seem repulsive in the future?
  6. Will the design and varied uses of jobs realize sustaining innovations which enable their continued use amidst disruptive innovations in industries and institutions?
  7. Are the fluid roles McLuhan envisioned, not the opposite of steady jobs, but a new way to benefit from paradoxes about work load, rewards, etc. 

Today I'm all questions. The questions I've posed here suck. These are closed-ended questions that merely require a yes or no answer. This exploration first calls for my posing different and better, open-ended questions.

to be continued ...


Knowing much less

Most of the time we know too much. We think we're awake because we seem so knowledgeable about what we see and what can happen as a result of what we're observing. Incredible as it may seem, when we know too much, we're asleep. We're under the witch's spell in all those fairy tales where the one princess and/or all the peasantry winks out in the middle of the story. We don't know we're asleep and won't know that until we awaken,

When we're awake, we're aware of the perils of knowing too much. We know the amazing value, impact and repercussions of not knowing. We drop our consensual conditioning, familiar categories and habitual conclusions. We restore our innocence, wonder and fascination in lieu of being too knowledgable. We're full of questions and empty of answers to queries like the following:

  1. What is this I'm seeing with my own eyes?
  2. What does this evidence indicate or reveal to me?
  3. What will come of this if I do nothing about it?
  4. What can I do to change it, encourage it or oppose it?
  5. What will become better if I accept it, allow it and resist it not?
  6. What will benefit from reversing it or coming at it the other way around?
  7. What calls for stopping it, dropping it or losing it willingly?
  8. What I'm I blind to, overlooking or disregarding?
  9. What is missing in this to complete it or restore its balance?
  10. What pattern is this fitting that gives me a correct reading of it?
  11. What is done to an extreme or gone way overboard?
  12. What processes are there to trust in this as they take effect?

Answers to questions like these to our minds when they are empty of preconceptions. We simply provide the blank page to be written upon. We know enough to ask the questions without insisting on coming up with our own answers. We're awake to the spaciousness of what we're facing, the mysteriousness of what it could mean, our fascination with it's uniqueness and our anticipation of being given answers to our questions.


Resilient solutions to chronic problems

In the space of power struggles and control issues, we find an abundance of chronic problems. Here's a brief sampling:

  1. soaring costs of health care, education, energy costs, sports/entertainment ticket prices, etc.
  2. recurring exploitation of captive markets, labor surpluses, disenfranchised citizens, etc.
  3. cycles of abuse, power struggle, partisanship, stalemates, etc.
  4. irreversible declines in food supplies, fresh water, top soil, air quality, etc.

Our determined use of superficial remedies insures the persistence of those problems. These chronic problems give us convincing experiences of powerlessness, ineptitude and persecution. These experiences give journalists lots of fodder for filling column inches in print and hours of airtime. Those in power try harder to gain control and exercise their command of the situation. The possibility of redemption, reversal, transformation or emancipation seems inconceivable while immersed in any batch of chronic problems.

Resilient solutions occur in a very different space of compassion and appreciation. The components of the chronic problem appear very differently in this redemptive space. The widespread experiences of powerlessness appear as opportunities to serve what's coming about, to care for others and to make a difference that others are not making for themselves. The opposing evidence of domineering power, excessive controls and win/lose victories provides a basis for making progress, moving forward and finding solutions. Those who have adopted roles as rescuers, martyrs and sacrificial lambs show us all how important it is to be humbled, unassuming and innocent of preconceptions. With these components of the chronic problem seen in this light, a redemptive catalyst can take effect.

A redemptive function says "yes" to everything in sight as if it's all perfect for realizing a resilient solution. There is no real problem with chronic problems, only the failing to see the light for appreciating the components of what's coming together nicely. Resistance that spawned persistence of the chronic problem gets replaced with acceptance of messages, valuing of contributions and uses of reminders. Differences in power, position or expertise seem insignificant compared to all the common ground and common sense about resilient solutions. the resilient solution comes about emergently, as if it was in the background of the problem all along and only required seeing it clearly to bring it into the foreground for everyone to experience first hand. The solution endures because buy-in to it and benefiting from it are shared by everyone open to the possibility.


The trouble with superficial remedies

When a tea kettle whistles, we can turn down the fire under the tea kettle -- or we can merely put a finger on the hole and hope the steam pressure does not blow up in our face.

When people are hungry, we can take them on a fishing expedition so they learn how to fish for themselves -- or we can give them a fish and hope they don't come asking for another.

When a person in a powerless position gets persecuted, we can put them in a powerful position -- or we can rescue them and hope they change in spite of keeping them "in their place".

When the lightbulbs are burning out repeatedly, we can look for short circuits, power surges and manufacturing defects -- or we can change the lightbulb again and hope this one does not burn out like all the others.

When we opt for the superficial remedy, we can recognize a pattern of:

  • solving an isolated problem instead of solving for pattern
  • oscillating amidst first order changes instead of pursuing second order transforming
  • opting for a quick fix instead of a long term investment in prevention
  • thinking reactively out of fear instead of proactively with creativity
  • opposing the threat rather than working with the opposing interests
  • maintaining the problem instead of changing the diagnosis of the problem
  • enabling the addiction rather than breaking the cycle of co-dependency
  • establishing the simple facts rather than inferring the complex system
  • trusting a single point of view instead of looking through several lenses
  • imposing a linear model on the mess instead of modeling the self reinforcing cycles

When we don't see these troubles with superficial remedies, we also won't see that our cherished remedy is superficial. We have become part of the problem. We will find ourselves trapped in dishing out more of our superficial remedy at great expense, sacrifice and potential martyrdom. When we succeed at seeing these troubles, we will also see which remedies are superficial. We have entered the solution space where problems lose their steam. So much can improve by seeing remedies as recognizable patterns.


More wonder please

I wonder what it would be like if the world had much more wonder occurring in it? We probably wouldn't know that something:

  • had already been tried before
  • wouldn't work like we expected from past experience
  • would be opposed by extremists as always
  • would cost too much or take too long like before

Instead we could do more than merely wonder:

  • if something was possible --  to wonder how it could be possible
  • if some problem always happened that way --  to wonder how to break the cycle
  • why something has to be that way --  to wonder how to change it
  • when things will turnaround --  to wonder how to be the change

With all this additional wonder, we could each wonder how to help out, make a difference and produce better results for those we care about. We could wonder how to be more creative, what innovations are called for and which approach will work the best. We could wonder how to work with instead of against others' interests. We could break stalemates and standoffs with wondering what we have yet to learn from and understand about others. We could wonder how to bring an end to something undesirable while launching something much better for al concerned.

We could wonder if we had a enough wonder in use right now and wonder how to get more (or less) when the amount was not quite right at the moment.  In wonder what the world would be like with all that wondering?


Sharing and separating spaciously

There's a big difference between sharing and separating what we have to give. Either we give it or we don't. When all we're considering is this big difference, we neglect how much to share, what kinds of sharing get valued and what comes about from all that sharing. We're poised to "unload the dump truck" rather than deal with more complex choices. Every facet of this possibility space seems already fixed like a bunch of persistent objects.

There's a more subtle difference between unbridled sharing and sharing done by divvying up all we have to share and appropriating select amounts to separate constituencies. When we're being selective about our sharing, we're being insightful about those on the receiving end. We're anticipating how our sharing will benefit others in particular. We're discerning how the total of what we have to share varies in how it benefits and obligates others; as well as costs us and earns us dividends to share it. We've opened up the space to wonder about more facets and explore more possibilities.

When we've complicated our sharing to include both costs and benefits for both sides, we'll enter into the paradoxical realm where it sometimes costs to receive and pays to give. Then we're in a position to separate what we share freely and share with strings attached. We can also sort between what we accept freely and receive with subsequent obligations. We may then appropriate what we share with more nuanced appreciation of contexts and consequences for particular sharing gestures. Sharing and separating go hand in hand or they exist as two sides of one coin. Sharing has been restored to be a mystery that defies any explanation that would confine it to something reified and misperceived.


Valuing others' expertise spaciously

Whenever others' expertise appears to us as a persistent object, we can make up our mind about it quickly. Their expertise will remain constant and the conclusion we jump to about its value to us will remain valid within our perspective. We may initially question the value of the expertise in terms of its use, timing, and/or accessibility. After that, we'll experience a clogged network with no further questions, mysteries or spaces to explore in this regard.

Whenever others' expertise appears to us as a changing process or a mystery, making up our mind about its value appears counter-productive. We've introduced spaciousness into our valuing of others' expertise. We've introduced processes like questioning, exploring, rethinking, relating, sharing and changing our minds. Some of those processes will seem recursive, iterative or spiraling. Others will seem straightforward like reliable procedures. Between those we'll experience processes which move forward with setbacks or make successful progress by failing often.

When viewing others' expertise spaciously, there are many ways to locate it. We can juxtapose it with our own expertise and notice the differences, commonalities and potential advantages. We can place it in a context of our immediate personal use for it as well as long term and vague alternative uses. We can relate to the expertise and consider possibilities of sharing it, enlarging it's "user group" or contributing to it's enhancement. We can contain the expertise in a place that gives rise to better questions to consider, more curiosity about it and additional discoveries to make by looking into it further.

There are also many places to go when we experience others' expertise spaciously. Virginia Yonkers explored many of these spaces on her blog recently.  We may go to a place of cognitive dissonance if the expertise disrupts our sense of confidence, composure and compatibility. We can enter common ground where it seems natural to take interest in others' interests and work with them at getting those interests served. We may combine others' expertise with our own and formulate a shared mental model.

With so much freedom in locating others' expertise and so many places for us to go with it, there's no way expertise can appear as a persistent object. We're free to make nothing of anything concrete and make something of our processing and wondering together.


Viewing expertise spaciously

When expertise is viewed as a persistent object, it appears to be located in credentialed experts and their expert conduct. There are no questions in use that could locate the expertise differently or view expertise more complexly. When expertise is viewed spaciously, there are many questions and processes that come into play. Here are four for your consideration.

  1. If the expertise we're receiving comes at a bad time (in the context of each of us having a life to live), is that legitimate expertise? (Question of timing)
  2. If the expert comes across as unapproachable and closed minded, is that an actual expert? (Question of relating)
  3. If the expert's response to a need for expertise works against how our minds assimilate and utilize expertise, where is the effective expertise located? (Question of collaborating)
  4. If the expert system assumes a problem created by that system can be fixed by more of the same expertise, how can that system be upgraded? (Question of diagnosing and changing systems)

These questions help us discern how expertise seen as a persistent object makes something out of nothing. A view of persistent objects disregards these questions (and many others) to maintain its entrenched power. The spaciousness of further questions, wonder and mysteries gets shut down. There's nothing to process while the routine procedures call for compliance. Decisions can be made fearfully, rather than comprehensively.

When we view expertise spaciously, its location is complex and constantly changing. There is often expertise in the lives which define good timing. There is expertise in being able to reach out, empathize and relate to those without credentialed expertise. There is always expertise in the ways our minds function which invite us to work with those dynamics effectively. There can be expertise to challenge and change expert systems which are creating problems and perpetuating misdiagnoses. With so many possible locations for expertise, it appears we are really moving around between conceptual and perceptual spaces which give rise to further questions to explore with a vast array of effective processes. Expertise is much better located in this spacious questioning than in credentials, stances or persistent objects.


The hidden trouble with classrooms

The use of classrooms (or lecture halls) requires everyone enrolled to show up at the same time. This sends a message to everyone: "don't have a life of your own" or "get penalized if you have a life". It presumes that everyone will have a job after schooling that sends the same message, so the use of classrooms is good preparation for later paycheck prisons.

Instead of having a life, enrollees get to have chronic stress instead. Obviously this interferes with learning, motivation and retention. It messes up any use of time out of classrooms for reflective practices which might find uses, connections or personal meaning in what was taught. The stress weakens their immune system functions which makes one vulnerable to contagious diseases both inside and outside the classroom. Combine that effect with everyone who is stressed by getting penalized for having a life, and classrooms become viral incubators which sicken the majority of enrollment.

Meanwhile the life that is neglected, or pursued in spite of penalties, suffers greatly. This may include caring for children or elders, employment obligations, friendships and dating, vehicle maintenance, living space upkeep and more. The neglect or mishandling of these facets of "having a life" fuels the increased stress and compromised immune system.

The "bad" decision to rely on classrooms (or other synchronous encounters) for learning may be an example of slipping into every one of the seven pitfalls I explored yesterday. Looking at the use the classroom through the lens of "making decisions comprehensively" shows us that the most likely future will be more of the same bad decisions. The trouble will be ignored, dismissed or disputed by the wicked combination of irrational urges to persist with toxic practices and the delusional rationalizations to justify making no changes. The only hope I see is for the enrollment to make better decisions about learning what they really need to know right now while having a life. The problems they experience with learning and staying healthy will vanish with the hidden troubles with classrooms.


Making good decisions

When we're in the frame of mind to make good decisions, we've lined up lots of different influences in our favor:

  1. We've got a good sense of the challenge of making good decisions and including all the essentials
  2. We've got some history of making good decisions in the past as well as insightful post-mortems of the bad decisions
  3. We're clear of fears about making a bad decision
  4. We're under the influence of other good decision makers who we're unconsciously imitating and emulating
  5. We're expanding the spectrum of possibilities under consideration as well as the range of criteria used to narrow the field
  6. We're working with the ways our brains function rationally and irrationally to realize the best of both dynamics
  7. We're expecting to receive inner guidance once we've prepared our mind with well researched alternatives, got a good feeling about the decision itself and have found  inner peace to sense the prompting from within

This model for making good decisions shows why so many bad decisions get made. There are so many things that can go wrong or go missing from this comprehensive approach. Here's a brief inventory of those pitfalls:

  1. We can dramatically oversimplify the challenge of making a good decision and leave out most of the essentials
  2. We can feel burdened by a long history of making bad decisions which appear in hindsight like an unavoidable curse or personal shortcoming 
  3. We can be so afraid of making a bad decision that we fall for dichotomizing alternatives, overreacting to threats or rushing to judgment 
  4. We can imitate and emulate ineffective decision makers who collude with our skewed perceptions, troubled history or chronic fears
  5. We can narrow our spectrum of possibilities and range of criteria to reach a foregone conclusion regardless of the situation
  6. We can work against how our brains function and endure the resulting irrational urges covered up by delusional rationalizations
  7. We can expect to be misled by personal addictions to materialistic acquisitions, arrogant superiority over others or manipulative control of situations

So when we're making bad decisions, there is no simple solution. When we wonder why politicians or other high profile public figures make bad decisions, we can sense their state of mind. When we're helping someone else make a better decision, we can consider this full spectrum of issues.