A brief look at corporate motivation for the rest of us.
|The Slacker's View of Motivation
There might be something amiss with my company's view of success and motivation. Today, I received a card from them with a picture of a lion on it. The text below the picture said something about how every morning, when a gazelle wakes up, he has to outrun the fastest lion to live. It followed with the notion that a lion has to outrun the slowest gazelle to survive, and that regardless of which animal you are, you had better wake up running.
Of course, some of us are neither lions nor gazelles. Some of us are slackers, observing life and work, in all its glory, from the sidelines. It strikes me that the idea of success for gazelles and lions is fundamentally flawed as stated. In reality, both only have to be faster than the slowest gazelle, which is great news for the majority of "gazelles" in the workplace. It seems to say that you don't have to be the fastest, or strongest, just don't be the slowest.
Sort of like that story about the two hikers who come across a hungry bear. One hiker takes a pair of running shoes out of his backpack. The other tells him he's crazy and that there's no way to outrun a bear. The wise hiker replies
"I don't have to be faster than the bear. I've just got to be faster than you."
That's the essence of life. Success, survival, it's all the same thing.
The slacker's view of motivation, is somewhat removed from the analogy of the gazelle and the lion. Motivation for slackers comes from the analogy of the wildebeest. It goes something like this. Life is like a huge herd of wildebeest. As it moves across the savannah, the herd pushes the slow and gimpy to the edge, where they are picked off by lions. In this way, each time a lion kills one; the whole herd gets stronger, relatively. It doesn't matter whether you're the fastest, strongest, or smartest. It only matters that you're not the slowest.
This is where my company gets it wrong, and where they are missing the point. If they want to motivate us, to provide us with the idea that all of us are sharing in success, that card they sent me should have shown that same lion pouncing on a wildebeest. The caption should have said "The Essence of Success: It's not about being the strongest or best. It's just about not being the gimp at the edge of the herd."
For slackers, this is all the motivation we need.