Empowerment Organization: Motivating from the bottom up

Motivation = Engagement : Apathy Is The Enemy!

You are charged with finding that “one small thing” which will get every employee or volunteer or citizen fully engaged in your larger projects. No apathy allowed in a Creative Edge Organization! You want to become alert to noticing apathy, people at any level who are not caring, not involved, and then work at involvement. You want every person actively involved at The Creative Edge, the lively, creative, energized “intuitive feel” of being a living, thinking, involved  Co-Creator or Collaborator.

Finding “One Small Thing”

 Video: One Small Thing Exercise

In the ongoing life of your Creative Edge community or organization, the weekly exchange of Listening/Focusing turns in Focusing Partnerships and  Focusing Groups or Teams will keep individuals involved at their own personal, unique Creative Edge. However, in addition, or perhaps first or independently, you can use the “One Small Thing” method to find one over-arching project that will get everyone involved.

You want to find “One Small Thing” that every person in the community or organization can become involved in with minimal effort but maximum sense of satisfaction in contributing something to the larger mission.  If the first step of involvement is too big, too difficult, then most people won’t be willing to do it.

So, you have to keep looking until you find something so small that everyone can do it, easily, willingly, yet so important that it will feel like a real contribution, a first step of commitment to the larger cause. Then, you can invite these involved, engaged people into further Collaborative Decision Making about the project.

If your “One Small Thing” project is not having the desired effect, then the step is too big, requires too much motivation or commitment. If that is the case, then you need to look for a smaller step until you find the one that works.

Example One: Achieving Corporate Buy-In

At Old Navy (Business Week, June,19, 2006), Innovation Champion Ivy Ross, catching the MySpace-type lifestyle of today, used a facebook-style CD in an effort to bind old and new employees into one new group. Every employee filmed three minutes of “something so personal it would take years to discover it.” Ross had new and old employees hungrily viewing the CD. They quickly became bonded into one, new group, “infused…with a close tightness essential for innovation.” Ross had found the “One Small Thing.”

Example Two: Revitalizing the PTO at a public school

The PTO of a public school was languishing. A handful of parents wer doing all the work. A new property tax bill dramatically cut funding to the public schools, wiping out PE teachers, art, music, librarians, nurses….The parents suddenly had to raise a whole lot of money from a population of middle to low income parents.

The small group of committed parents started selling Grocery Store Gift Certificates. The PTO could purchase the “scrip” at a 5% discount, resell it to parents to use to buy groceries, and make a 5% profit on something parents had to buy anyway. Everyone had to buy groceries!  They sold “scrip” in the front hallway before school and at school events and PTO meetings.

Suddenly, everyone was buying “scrip” – grandparents, neighbors, as well as parents and teachers. People were coming into the school to purchase “scrip” and staying to paint walls or help with reading. The only people who were unhappy were parents who were on food stamps – they were furious that they couldn’t contribute!!!! The PTO had found the One Small Thing that allowed everyone to become involved.

Now, parents had a “stake” in how the money would be spent. Attendance at PTO meetings grew to thirty, making decisions about how to distribute the funds, how to enlarge the “scrip” program. Teachers came to present proposals for funding.

In the first year, the PTO raised $11,000 (at the 5% net profit, gross sales of $220,000!) to hire a part-time PE teacher who would teach the other teachers how to run PE classes. The “scrip” program spread to other public schools and, ten years later, a large banner in front of the town high school reads “Buy Grocery Scrip”.

But, more importantly, the entire school was revitalized.  The parents had to establish a “volunteer lounge” at the school to accommodate all the volunteers!

Hypothetical Example: Global Warming

You are Al Gore.  You want to get every day citizens involved in the issue of Global Warming. But most people feel apathetic: “Oh, there is nothing that one person can do…it is up to governments.”

Well, maybe it is up to governments…but non-apathetic, engaged citizens are the ones to put pressure on governments.  So, you are looking for that “one small thing.” “What is one small thing that masses of people would be willing to do and which would act as a first step toward full engagement?”

Here’s a possibility:  Purportedly, “idling” your car greatly increases the output of pollutants. Yet, everyone, without giving it a thought, “idles” at drive-up banks, fast food take-outs, school pick ups. What about a “Stop Idling! Stop Greenhouse Gases” campaign? With bumper stickers, flyers on car windows or handed out at drive-up locations….the double-entendre “Don’t idle and don’t be idle!”……

If you can get people, all over the world, to “Stop Idling!”, you will have them engaged in thinking about global warming every day…and primed to engage in other actions which you initiate.

Intuitive Focusing on “What is the One Small Thing?”

Your Turn

So, let’s use the Intuitive Focusing skill to find the “one small thing” to engage and motivate your target audience, be it consumers, citizens, volunteers, or employees. This could be the most important decision you make, so, one small session may not be enough, but it will start you thinking about Creative Edge engagement> It will put the pot on the burner so that creative insights can arise now or later.

You can do this first step alone, by yourself, but even more productively with the appropriate group of problem solvers, benefiting from the Creative Edge Collaborative Thinking of many people.

However, the best way to generate ideas for the “one small thing” is to initiate a Listening/Focusing Brainstorming process with the people at the bottom! We are not going to do that here, but it is essential to the process of motivating from the bottom up.

As a group or individually, sit down and get comfortable, preparing to spend up to  twenty minutes letting right- and left- brain problem solving interact. Add another twenty minutes for group sharing. Keep a blank pad of paper in front of each person for gathering ideas.

In a group, have one person read the following instructions aloud to everyone else. Everyone except the reader, close your eyes, focusing inward, on The Creative Edge…or, at least, look off “into space”. You want to access right-brain, intuitive thinking before you turn to more traditional “brainstorming” methods.

Upon hearing the instructions, pay attention, inside, looking for the “intuitive feel” of answers – not what is immediately, intellectually known, but the right-brain, intuitive, murky, vague feel of what you know that is “more than words”…..leave at least a minute of silence between each instruction:

Focusing Instructions

Close your eyes and get comfortable…let your “focus” turn inward, your attention toward the “intuitive feel” that is more than words…
(one minute or more….)

Just notice your breathing going in…and out…don’t try to change it. Just notice your breathing as a way of coming inside, more in tune with your intuitive-knowing….
(one minute or more…)

Take a moment to choose an area of interest, or, if the problem to be explored is already known, name it:
“I (or we) are going to spend some Intuitive Focusing time on the problem of (name it)…
(one moment or more…)

Now ask yourself, “Where is the apathy that I am concerned about? Who is it that I want to engage in this project? “ and just sit quietly, bringing the whole concern into the center of your attention, setting aside the already known, and letting an “intuitive feel” for “the whole thing” to arise….
(one minute…)

Find some words or an image or make a drawing….try to capture the “intuitive feel”…
Don’t worry if you don’t get a clear answer….you are drawing closer to an “intuitive feel” for the whole situation… If you want to write anything down, using Mind Mapping or any other method, take a few moments to do so…
(one minute or more…)

Now, ask yourself, “What could be ‘one small thing’ people could do, ‘one small thing’ this audience would be happy to do, which could be a first step toward full engagement?”…
(one minute…)

Don’t get into thinking the “already-known”…set aside what you already know and just pay attention to The Creative Edge…the “intuitive feel” of the whole thing that is more than you are already thinking…..don’t try to do anything…just notice the “unclear feel” that comes up….
(one minute or more…)

And find some words or an image that can capture that “intuitive feel”….if you want to write anything down, feel free…
(one minute or more)

If you are working alone, you can go back-and-forth, internally, trying out an idea in your mind, sensing into how people might react, imagining how it might work…going back and forth between trying out possibilities and checking with the “intuitive feel”: “Would that work?...How would that be?....” Take notes as needed or desired…continue as long as you want.

In a group, after the initial Focusing Instructions, let people quietly take notes or Mind Map to capture their fresh “intuition,” then use a Creative Edge Round Robin sharing structure for an initial go-round. Someone keep time, limit turns to 3 -5 minutes per person. Each person gets an uninterrupted turn to say what came up during the Intuitive Focusing, paying attention to the “intuitive feel” while speaking, creating fresh, innovative words and images…..Everyone else just listens, taking notes as desired, noticing what new ideas or Creative Edges arise as the others speak……

After this initial sharing from the Creative Edge, the group can turn to a more traditional “brain storming” method, bouncing ideas off of each other, interrupting if that stimulates creativity…but returning to the Creative Edge Round Robin sharing structure, time-limited turns with no interruptions allowed,  if more access to The Creative Edge of intuitive, right-brain problem solving is desired.

Then, of course, try out any ideas that have come up….test them on co-workers or focus groups… ask the people at the bottom what would work for them…follow your usual product development and marketing strategies, the measure of success being whether people willingly become engaged… or, if they are not stepping up,  consider if the step too big, in which case, it’s back to the drawing board, The Creative Edge, to come up with a smaller step, until the “One Small Thing” is found.


Want to learn more about Focused Listening and Intuitive Focusing?

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These materials are offered purely as self-help skills. In providing them, Dr. McGuire is not engaged in rendering psychological, financial, legal, or other professional services. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.