CRITICAL PATH II – Recognizing What Motivates People, by JP Rosso

The basic motivations for all people are virtually embedded into our DNA. We’re all motivated to secure food, water, shelter, warmth when it’s cold, safety and security from predators (human & animal). However, once our basic needs are secured, each of us has different motivators that influence the rest of our lives.

The first work published on what motivates people was Eduard Spranger’s 1928 work entitled, “What Motivates Men.” Eduard Spranger was a German psychologist. He identified six (6) key areas that motivated people:

  • The Theoretical, whose dominant interest is the discovery of truth
    • The Economic, who is interested in what is useful
    • The Aesthetic, whose highest value is form and harmony
    • The Social, whose highest value is love of people
    • The Political, whose interest is primarily in power
    • The Religious, whose highest value is unity

Later work conducted by Bill & Ron Bonstetter in the 2000’s resulted in the further defining of twelve (12) major ‘Driving Forces”, which represent each of the 6 key areas and are demonstrated across a spectrum.

Thus, the Theoretical motivator can be seen in ‘instinctive’ behavior & is based on one’s past experience or intuition. The other end of the spectrum is seen as ‘intellectual’; here the individual is driven by the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake.

The Economic motivator can be seen in ‘selfless’ behavior & is based on completing tasks with little or no expectation of personal recognition or return. The other end of this spectrum is seen in ‘resourceful’ behavior. This drive is for practical results & demonstrable return on the effort invested.

The Aesthetic motivator can be seen in ‘objective’ behavior & is rooted in the functionality of the individual’s surroundings. Whereas the other end of the spectrum is driven by the ‘harmony’ of the experience, subjective views & balance in their surroundings.

The Social motivator is seen by ‘intentional’ actions. This occurs when people are driven to help others for a specific purpose, not simply because it’s expected. They want to get some level of reward or return from their actions. The other end of this spectrum is seen by ‘altruistic’ actions. These are characterized when the individual assists others simply for the satisfaction of being helpful, with no thought to personal recognition for their actions.

The Political motivator is generally seen as pursuit of power. One end of this spectrum is demonstrated by ‘collaborative’ efforts whereby the individual is happy to be part of team, in a supportive role & with little need for personal recognition. The other end of this spectrum is shown in ‘commanding’ behavior. These individuals are driven by status, recognition & control.

Finally, Religious. Today, scholars have reworded this to Methodologies. One end of this spectrum is seen in ‘receptive’ behavior. These people are driven by new ideas, new methods and new opportunities. The other end of this spectrum is seen in ‘structured’ behavior. These people driven by traditional approaches and view virtually all change in proven ways to doing things with skepticism.

Our worlds, our work, our families, are all made up of people with all sorts of ‘motivators’. Understanding what motivates us, as well as those we live & work with, is a key to long-lasting harmony and effectiveness.

HPISolutions has tools to help you & your organization gain a better understanding of your “driving forces” as your motivators. John “JP” Rosso

Thanks to TTI SI of Phoenix, AZ for their contribution to this article.