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Views from the Prairie

February 11

Motivation – What can We Learn?

Now that the football season is over, we can look back to see if there are any object lessons that can be learned. One area that sports teams highlight is that of team motivation. In this last year, there were several examples of great and not so great motivating of the team. History has examples of extraordinary team motivation.

In business, when we are pulling together a team, we want to have a team with strong cohesion and all pulling towards the same goal. In most cases, we do not see the efforts that we would like to see.

What happens when the team leader does not believe in the stated goals of the team? One example we got this year was of a team that had been given plenty of resources but they never pulled together as a team. Many players went after their own agendas instead of the team agenda. People played with competency, but less than all out effort. The result was loss after loss until the head coach got fired. With a new head coach, the same people played much better. The Dallas Cowboys are hoping that Jason Garrett will continue to inspire the team to victory.

We see the same thing happen time after time in corporate teams. A manager may have been given the task to pull the workers together, but does not believe in the stated goal. The results are often the same as the Dallas team had: loss after loss sinking them down towards last place in the market.

We also saw the case where a team was motivated far beyond what other people were. Green Bay was far more motivated when it went up against Chicago and won the trip to the Super Bowl. Going from a perception of barely making it into the finals to winning the championship is a sign of great motivation.

High school football history has a number of cases where a team was motivated by some tragedy and performs far ahead of where they were expected to. In these cases, the students are motivated by themselves and no coaching could ever take them to that level of play.

Most managers know that motivation can make a huge difference. The hard lesson is that no manager can motivate someone more than what they themselves are motivated. Motivation rarely comes from a poster hung on the wall or by slogans shouted at a sales meeting and extraordinary motivation is something that almost no manager can make happen.

We see management fad after management fad because few managers invest themselves enough in one goal. They do a competent job of motivating people to work an average amount. In order to motivate beyond that, we have to live for the goals ourselves. Few of us are willing to do that for the next quarterly numbers.

Break Away from Good Business Practices!

It is time to get rid of many consultants. They have advised company after company to focus on their "core competencies", listen to their customers, and invest in what will bring the highest returns. Guess what? These proper management techniques actually help a company miss the next "great thing". These techniques keep a company from properly investing in the "game changing" innovations.

In the early history of personal computers, there were many cases where a company listened to its customers and followed where their biggest customers were - only to miss the huge opportunity that knocked on their door. Digital Research missed out when IBM approached them for an operating system. Numerous companies missed trends with PC's.

There are many more examples in the book, "The Innovator's Dilemma".

Corporations are great at "staying the course" but terrible at making the changes to the new ways of doing things. There are still companies who do not have a web site and many more that do not have a presence on Facebook. It is not just new technology for marketing that companies are missing but also new ways of doing business.

Peter Drucker stated that "The most common source of mistakes in management decisions is the emphasis on finding the right answers rather than the right question." When looking at a new technology, the question is not "will an investment in that technology bring the greatest return", but "if we don't do this, will the company be around in 10 years?" We are going through a period of rapid change and those companies that don't keep on trying new stuff won't survive.

Risky Printers

The latest target for attackers? Your printer!

At the Shmoocon conference in Washington, D.C., researchers demonstrated how hackers are using printers to infiltrate corporate computer networks.


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