Exploring Motive Consciousness


What is motive consciousness?

Motive consciousness is high when a business is aware of its motives. The widely and openly shared those motives are, the more conscious the business is as a hole.

Motives which are kept hidden from any part of the organisation lowers the consciousness of the business. Motives can also be distorted – exaggerated, refrained and played down in ways that lower consciousness of the business.

A motive lends energy and commitment to the organisation’s actions. Motivation arises through the will force of the organisation being activated and increased by commitment to the motive’s realisation. An organisation’s Motive becomes stronger when it harmonises with the motives of the people working in the organisation. An organisation’s consciousness improves when its motives are openly shared and understood.

A motive is an underlying will impulse. It is what “moves” us into action (in thought, feeling and deeds).

It might seem obvious to assume that organisations are conscious of their motives. That is not always the case.

Apparent Motives

Organisations can also be under illusions about what their motives are. Motives can be apparent, but real motives can lie underneath those apparent ones. Apparent motives are the ones we share openly, in public, and tell to ourselves.

My apparent motive could be to provide an excellent service in our hotel. My real motive, living hidden underneath, might be to maximise profit. I might be more or less share of how that real motive is affecting the behaviour of me and my organisation. Motives can be more or less hidden from ourselves, our employees, and our communities (including our customers).

Some apparent motives are self-delusions. Some apparent motives are lies, told more or less consciously, to ourselves and others.

Spinning Motives

Often we have an ideal opinion of ourselves, an individuals, teams and organisations. This distorts our real motives. We can claim to be motivated by concern, and yet truly be motivated by a wish to be popular.

When a business or organisation tries to present distorted, apparent motives as true, it is using “spin”.

Spin lies at the heart of a lot of marketing effort and this diminishes the consciousness of a business, because it’s real motives lie hidden or distorted. It often lowers the consciousness of customers who are then unable to give truthful feedback to feed into the organisation’s learning and innovation effort. Spin is ultimately self-defeating for a business that wants to be conscious, because businesses are dynamic open systems in changing environments, and distorted or partial feedback from those environments further distorts the quality of feedback and information to the organisation sending out the spin. Basically, spin disappears ultimately up its own arse. In a dynamic open system such as a human being or human organisation, the more lies we put out, the more we end up mistrust in what we are saying to ourselves.

Conscious Business Motives

A conscious business wears its deepest motives on its organisational sleeves.

A conscious business seeks out its real motives and tests them out on those it serves.

A conscious business has no hidden motives. When it does hide motives skilfully, it becomes a toxic conscious business and it can never reach full consciousness because it limits the ability of its external stakeholders to provide objective feedback and input to its own learning process.

Many struggling businesses are operating, unaware of their true motives, in a state of self-delusion, or with distorted motives. These motives often get hidden in taken for granted assumptions about the values and beliefs about how the organisation should function.

In a truly conscious business, the deepest motives are realised through the goals that it sets for itself. Motive and aim are one. Motive and core business strategy line up. The culture of the organisation is one based on safe inquiry, openness, dialogue and real time analysis and reflection. Motives may change with a change of people, ownership and environmental influences. Motives are regularly examined. In a conscious business, Motive is as vital to leadership as strategy. Indeed, motives determine the strategy, and strategy challenges the motives.

Achieving Motive Consciousness

Motive consciousness is achieved through open conversation. Space is regularly opened for honest communication. The organisation recognises that motives can get hidden under emerging culture norms, systematic habits, and the impact of “new blood” and new impulses brought by new people into the business.

Meetings in conscious businesses always allow time for a motives check, for a check in of feelings, and for regular testing of new decisions and impulses against core motives.

The Motives of a Business

Many small business owners set up new businesses to realise and fulfil a motive around a specific product or service. The motive is product or service specific. Here we are motivated by a vocational link to a specific product or service.

Many small business owners set up new businesses to fulfil an entrepreneurial aim. They want to “make the business work” and the chosen product or service is less important to eh realisation of that motive. Here we are motivated by success of the process of business entrepreneurship.

Many small owners set up a new business in order to get rich, to achieve a financial goal. To make a million. The chosen product or service, and the needed entrepreneurial processes are a means to realisation that end. The Motive is money.

In many cases the business owner and leaders confuse these motives or dress one up as another, to their staff, their communities and even to themselves. I am motivated by service, I say, when really I want to make a million. I get passionately motivated by growing the business, and claim it is all about the product, when really I will soon get bored because what really motivates me in being an entrepreneur in almost any sector? I want to make a million when really I am scared to admit I fear doing one thing really well, the thing I have dreamed of doing since a child, so I pretend I am motivated more financially than I really am.

This can get more complex within a larger organisation. We can claim to be passionate about innovation when we are really motivated by career aims. We can claim to be motivated by sustainability when we are really trying to drive down cost and maximise profits.

Developing Motive Consciousness

Motive consciousness in a business involves getting all of these motives out on the table. Scrutinising them. Challenging them. Questioning them from different points of view. Sometimes we can do this within our team, or even on our own. Sometimes a facilitator, coach or mentor is needed.

Wait just a minute…!

Do businesses and organisations really have motives? How is that possible? Aren’t organisations collections of people. Does an organisation have any life without its people? Isn’t it plain silly to suggest that an organisation can have a motive?

The question here is whether an organisation as a collection of people can exhibit behaviour that can’t easily be explained in terms of the people separately. The motives of individuals do set and influence the behaviour of organisations. When an organisation is motivated extrinsically, its behaviour is influenced and even determined by an external force. We might work harder in a team because of a bonus that will be paid if we achieve a certain productivity target. Here the motivation of the team is explained by the Motive of an external agent – a manager. An organisation can also be motivated intrinsically.

An Example

A group might come together because they all feel passionate about creating and performing some music together. Here there is a harmony between the creative motive of each individual. We find common ground in our intrinsic motivation.

Let’s say our new music group starts to become successful. More and more people come to see us and down load our free music. A band member leaves and a new member arrives, and passes the audition by being able to play bass guitar well and also claiming that her motivation is, like the rest of the group, intrinsic and based on a wish to create and play music. She has a huge mortgage and a wish, suppressed since childhood, to be rich and famous. This starts to play into the behaviour of the group. At meetings now, the bass player suggests charging for music – just a little but states “we aren’t valued properly if the music is free”. This awakens a hidden Motive in the lead singer who agrees with her, first privately, then openly. The stated motives on the band’s Web site is that they are driven by their passion for music. It has drawn fans to them who accord with those motives. Then the band realises an album and charges for it. All hell breaks loose in the fan base…

Seen from outside, the band is becoming a changing organisation, seen as hypocritical. The “business” is becoming something in its own right, exhibiting behaviours collectively that are different to the motivations of all the separate members of the organisation.

Conflicting Motives, Harmonising Motives

In larger businesses I have worked with, I’ve facilitated crisis meetings where we have looked at the behaviours and underlying motives of the business, and these motives are a shock to the leadership team. it turns out that none of the team members are motivated personally by those things! In one case, the motives are a kind of legacy, from a previous owner and leadership team, from received cultural habits, deeply ingrained. In another case, the organisation’s motive is driven by a small group of shareholders. On the shop floor, people think the organisation is there for very different reasons. Behaviour results across the organisation that is inconsistent and sometimes even damaging. The organisation is “moving” in ways that are a surprise or are against the personal motives of some of the key people leading and working in it.

An organisation is a kind of “being”. People in groups can behave in ways that are not the ways they would choose to behave individually. So, even metaphorically, an organisation can have motives. What moves it is a kind of “group soul” – a group behaviour, rooted in motivation, more or less conscious to it as a whole, and to the people individually.

A conscious business knows what is moving it – motive-ating it.

And that is where the conscious business conversation really begins…

Visit the Conscious Business Realm

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