Posted by: DrAlanRae | October 20, 2008

Motivation – how other people think and feel

One of the real challenges of managing your team is that not everyone sees the world the way you do. Dudley Lynch author of “Strategy of the Dolphin” for instance says “We don’t see the world the way it is – we see it the way we think”. This is important, particularly as the human brain is a tool for taking 2 and 2 and making 5.

We have to come to terms with the fact that the human nervous system didn’t evolve under evolutionary pressure to solve logical problems. Its purpose is to get us out of trouble fast. This means it’s always trying to save processing power by making snap decisions and it’s always going to over-react to novelty and things that move fast. Finally it constantly tries to make patterns to explain what it sees. Usually these patterns are nonsense which accounts for the persistence of superstition in what is supposed to be an evidence based, scientific society. A good account of what these behaviours mean in practice is given in Robert Cialdini’s “Influence – Science and Practice” which I would strongly recommend to the aspiring copywriter,[1]

As a business aspirant, you need to be able to attract engage and motivate 2 classes of people with your visions – customers who might want what you have to offer and staff who have to fulfil their needs, In practice we find that if we present our ideas to them in language that reflects the way they see the world, we’re more likely to get a result than if we don’t. This means that while being authentic and true to your own vision you need to learn how to flex your message to express it so it resonates with the thinking styles and values of those you want to reach.

I’ve always found the tools developed by Dudley Lynch to be really helpful. Described in his book the Strategy of the Dolphin, they are the Brain Map and his MindMaker 6 tool which lets you chart your positioning on the Graves Spiral. I like them because these models are powerful enough o be useful but simple enough to be mastered quickly and applied in a day to day situation.[2]

The Brain map assumes that we all show a blend of instinctive vs. rational behaviour and of left brain (convergent, results orientated) vs right brain (pattern orientation) perception. These result in 4 predominant modes of thinking – visionary (right, front, thinking, pattern), analytic (left front, thinking detail) entrepreneurial (left, rear, instinctive, results) and team players (right, rear, instinctive, relationships). You can see how these are related in the picture. The pure forms have characteristic ways of thinking and behaving and they see the world – and in each other in quite specific ways. The BrainMap lets you analyse yourself within this framework and gives you a lot of information about how the pure types think. I use it primarily as an aid to developing marketing stories.


The Mindmaker6 tool takes this a bit further and looks at the evolution of value systems, in people, organisations and societies. It works on the premise that values are either predominantly self (i.e. results) focused or group (relationships) focused and that as individuals or organisations develop they move between these focuses. As they develop they are capable of including more complexity. At a certain point of development they become conscious of the choices they can make between adopting different values appropriate for different purposes. This comes with the ability to integrate systems thinking with people skills which is the hallmark of a successfully growing organisation in today’s networked economy.

There is a reasonable overlap between the 2 models and it has become possible to map the behaviour of different types of  organisation in this way.


Understanding this is important for writing effective copy for organisations in the public or voluntary sectors that respond to different imperatives to the commercial sector,

The traditional salesman’s view of customer motivation is that they are motivated by fear, greed or fashion, Experience in business to business sales and marketing suggests to me that fear is usually the stronger motivator, However in the consumer world it can be a bit more complex. Individuals ARE motivated by altruism. And they are also strongly motivated by dissatisfaction with their existing situation.

Faith Popcorn in her book “Clicking” identified 17 MegaTrends that were apparent in people’s behaviour. As a New York fashion Diva they had strange North American names. However, they boiled down to two overarching principles.

1) I’m fed up of this so I’ll buy myself a lollipop (could be a BMW of course)

2) I’m fed up of this so I’ll buy more control of my living environment.

Number 2 is interesting. I think its one of the drivers which cause people to set up in business. The overwhelming evidence is that people set up businesses to gain control over their work environment. So if you’re selling to first time business people – remember they’re buying a lifestyle.

So what we’ve covered here is all about understanding how your audience thinks and feels and then telling your story in the language that they would use to describe it to themselves. Otherwise you end up only being able to sell to people like you – and as we know only too well – there’s a limited supply of those.

I once had a job in a public sector organisation after about 15 years of being Managing Director of a 10 man company. I was always getting into trouble for using the wrong language and focusing on the wrong issues. You see – it seemed natural to me that the most important thing was to get the results I was tasked with. However I had no feeling for the sheer political complexity of the organisation and what was considered appropriate in terms of maintaining the cohesion of the group. After about 18 months of pain which I somehow survived by being too competent to fire I eventually developed a quite unexpected flair for organisational politics and achieved some good things that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t learned to play the game.

Mind you I still get caught out. I got into trouble for referring to man-days in a recent bid where consultant days would be considered gender neutral. I also got told off for referring to market research as research – because research on people trips out a whole dimension of ethical considerations.

It’s all nonsense of course – but it just demonstrates how important it is to understand these value systems.

As a rule of thumb – don’t use “me” language with “we” people or they’ll resent you and try to cut you down to size. And don’t use “we” language with “me” people or they’ll see you as weak and try and take you out.

And above all don’t try to use charm on accountants.





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  4. Interesting stuff…Thanks. Keep it up!

  5. This Blog reminds me the reason I like bloging so much, the interaction is very important with readers and you guys have it right. Looks great too, will be back for more posts, David the mover. : – )

  6. Thanks guys -glad you like it – more soon


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