Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Individual vs. Organizational Innovation Motivation

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

"Motivation: If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon."
- message included on a Demotivators® poster from Despair, Inc.

Given my somewhat wry and ironic sense of humor, someone must have thought a few years back I'd enjoy a Demotivators calendar from Despair, Inc. I must admit I found it a bit humorous.

For those unfamiliar with Demotivators, they're essentially the facetious antithesis of Successories posters - those framed leadership and motivation prints found on corporate walls throughout the world. (The Demotivators actually remind me a bit of the recurring Saturday Night Live bit "Deep Thoughts with Jack Handy.")

Both Demotivators and Successories prints include a colorful picture and an insightful saying meant to represent the overall topic of the piece - such as Teamwork, Inspiration, Leadership, Attitude, etc. Although similar in style and appearance, the messages themselves are dicotomous at best. Take for instance, the message associated with Teamwork.

Successories print (accompanied by picture of a rowing team working together on water)
"Teamwork: Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."

Demotivators print (accompanied by picture of snowball rolling down a snowy hill)
"Teamwork: A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction."

or how about Success?

Successories print (accompanied by picture of morning rays of light shimmering through some trees)
"Success: Some people dream of success...while others wake up and work hard at it."

Demotivators print (accompanied by picture of a quarterback being pummeled by a defensive football player)
"Success: Some people dream of success, while other people live to crush those dreams."

It's probably fair to say that simply reading the Demotivators messages probably doesn't do the humor justice. The punchline is mostly created by the downtrodden saying juxtaposed with the inspirational-looking glossy photo on each print. It's ironic. It makes me chuckle.

Having been given the Demotivators calendar a few years back, I must now be on their mailing list. Just in time for the holidays, I recently received their new catalog. Inside I noticed some new prints, one of which was Innovation.

Demotivators print (accompanied by picture of human hand and robotic hand shaking. The robotic hand looks like it came right out of the 1927 film Metropolis.)
"Innovation: If it can make your job easier, it can probably make it irrelevant."

Seeing this message made me begin to wonder what differences might exist between the motivations of an overall organization as it relates to innovation and the motiviatons of the individuals that make up those organizations. Everyday we see ads, read articles, read books, and generally absorb the goodtidings messages and promotions of innovation initiatives throughout the corporate world. But what of the people in the trenches? What of those that aren't readily in the public eye? Ideally their motivations would align with the goals and objectives of the overall organization. Ideally everyone is motivated to innovate. But are they?

I know there are opportunities throughout organizations for anyone and everyone to be innovative in their own way, however small their role might be. But does everyone in an organization want to be innovative? Might they have motivations for not being so?

I haven't yet formulated any insightful responses to these questions. I'm just sort of wondering out loud at this point. I do find such questions intriguing though. And perhaps I'll ponder some more and return to this topic at another time.

In closing I'll leave you with one more Demotivators saying. Given the medum, I found this simply too ironic to resist.

"Blogging: Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few."

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