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Desire or determination – what motivates us to think differently?

Desire or determination – what motivates us to think differently?

The concept of motivation remains a quandary for me. Motivation is so intrinsic to the psycho-emotional frame* of every individual – and can also be influenced by the situational environment – that there is no single point of reference for motivation. I know what motivates me – based on my beliefs and values- but what is important or meaningful to me may have little significance for someone else. This makes defining motivation in human beings difficult, and understanding what makes people think and do… complex.

So what drives motivation? Is it our egos that desire an experience to provide gratification in the moment or the satisfaction of achieving the result? Or is it our altruistic ambition to do something for the benefit of others? Or is it simply to meet a human need to belong and be part of the ‘herd’?  

There is no question that motivation has a strong correlation to creativity. Motivation is a central psychological factor to ensure creativity is applied in realising the outcome of innovation. Design Thinking requires the ability to problem solve in patterns. Specific problem solving patterns in design thinking tend to be determined by experiential and situational reasoning than by analytical and rational thinking. Yet, emotions also play a part in how people respond in situations.

In order to harness our emotional response for positive effect, it is useful to understand their purpose.  Emotions aren’t sense-making systems, but rather a biological learnt coping mechanism that assists us to ‘survive’, i.e. when we are in danger, our emotional “brain’ takes control and communicates with our body to respond to protect us. However, emotions also enable us to be empathetic and subjective. Yet, sometimes they can get in the way of our thinking because we allow our subjective thinking to determine how we interpret situations.

For this reason, to harness the benefit of the Design Thinking process, it is vital to maintain an ‘open-mind’ when we process and interpret what we observe. Further, our ‘view’ isn’t the only one that counts. Design thinking is a multi-disciplinary undertaking that requires multiple perspectives. To execute design thinking successfully requires a contribution from the design team working together. Further, an environment in which creativity is encouraged and promoted goes hand in glove with teamwork.

Also, the organisational culture and the climate within a design team itself has an impact on motivation in design thinking. There are positive factors that enhance the design process and negative elements that impede it. Leadership, supervisory encouragement, freedom and challenging work enhance innovative team outcomes while organisational system, process and procedural impediments can present limitations and barriers to success.

Thus, it is important for executive decision makers to give the design process autonomy within the organisational matrix. Creative people are sometimes best left alone to come up with the best ideas and solutions.

Those who know their ideas are worth being considered and can prove the value that they will bring to business need to be brave and lead with conviction to go against the ‘tide’ of what other people say and do.

To those who have ever been or are in this space, I know how psychologically and emotionally tough and lonely it can be. There are times when you just want to give up. Don’t!… because you are not alone and it is people like you who dare to dream and take bold steps to follow through with actions that create change.

Eventually, your ideas will receive attention and you’ll be recognised for them.


* frame refers to the psychological interpretation of a situation according to personal beliefs



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