Nature is the biggest teacher. We may draw lessons from nature that we are drawing now from advanced sciences such as neuroscience. One example is how to motivate and influence people. Another example is the building of what I coin “Fibonacci-Based Organizations”. I shall explain both examples in this buzz as they are interrelated.
While preparing for the writing of this buzz my friend Edward Lewellen published a buzz titled “Your beliefs might be wrong”. In his buzz he wrote “I also believe that much of what is taught about leadership and motivation at universities and colleges is behind the times and need updating. Why? Because recent neuroscience tells a different story about humans and the way we should be led and motivated. I believe that Tony Robbins had it right for decades with his "Six Human Needs" because neuroscience has recently (2008) discovered a motivational formula very similar called SCARF”. SCARF is the acronym of five words as the following image explains better than words.
The Trees Metaphor
The five factors that play a significant part in motivating people defined by SCARF and the question within they are in synchronicity with nature are questions that clouded my mind for some time. I find that trees in a forest are not only a good metaphor, but also sheds light on how to apply SCARF successfully. Let me start the discovery journey.
Status- this factor relates to the positioning of somebody within the society. Not paying attention to a person or ignoring his presence make him feel unimportant. This and feeling can turn into a strong de-motivator. The reverse is true. Feeding people with impressions or actions that make them feel they have a high societal status will motivate them.
In a forest status plays a key role in the “trees society”. The high trees (high-status employees) have different status and opportunities that low trees (low-status employees). Because of differing needs low and high trees differ in their motivators. For example, high trees have more access to light, lower their wood density to grow higher. The low trees need protection and therefore grow high-density wood to resist risks surrounding them such as damage and deceases. Motivation depends on where we are on the status-ladder. High-status employees are motivated by opportunities to grow high; low-status employees by feeling protected and away from damage.
Certainty, Autonomy, Fairness and Relatedness- Even SCARF separates these four factors I fund them closely intertwined. This has to do a lot with the term I coin “Self-Organizing Growth”. Let me explain. A big de-motivator for employees is finding themselves going chaotically in different directions. Losing direction is perplexing and stressful. Changing path is a strong stressor. This is against the need to change directions sometimes to remain agile to the changing climate of business. I may coin here the term “direction stressors”. The trees in a forest know exactly how to deal with issue by still changing directions purposefully and in an organized pattern so that they may grow without inhibiting other trees from growing. How the trees do that? By growing in a simple and repeated fashion as is explained by the following quote. If the central stem of a plant is looked at closely, it can be seen that as the plant grows upward, leaves or branches sprout off of the stem in a spiraling pattern. In other words, in an over-simplified example, the plant grows up an inch, and a leaf or branch sprouts out of the stem. Then the plant grows up another inch, and once again a leaf or branch sprouts out, but this time it sprouts out in a different direction than the first”. Each leaf shoots out in a different direction. Surprisingly, this is no random direction. Moving up from the base, each successive leaf spirals around the branch at an angle of roughly 137.5 degrees. Amazingly, this angle is a Fibonacci angel. I f we divide 137.5/360 we get 0.38 and that this 0.62 from 1. Fantastic as the Golden Ratio of 0.62 is organizing what seemed to be a chaotic growth. This self-organizing growth not only leads to similar growth at all scales but provides all leaves and branches of a tree to have fairness of exposure to light and humidity.
There is a big managerial lesson here that for companies to grow they have to grow in such a pattern to allow employees to have fairness in their exposure to the “light of information” and other resources. The growth is self-motivated and is propelled if done with fairness and autonomy by allowing for the formation of self-organized teams. I coin here another term. It is “The butterfly effect of fairness”. Should the angel of rotation change slightly from 137.5 degrees the healthy growth of a tree (organization” shall be endangered for the exposure to light shall be disturbed drastically. Fairness is a crucial factor for managers and team leaders to overlook or deviate slightly from.
A great value of self-organizing trees (organizations) is keeping relatedness of clusters (teams) close and in conformity. Feeling social-strangeness is a cause of feeling threatened. This de-motivator is removed by feeling the relatedness with whom employees work. Even trees care for this factor and similar trees adjust their growth so as not to obscure light from the low branches.
Social growth of employees is an integral part of the growth of any organization and without which de-motivation, lack of happiness and disengagement cloud the work environment.Added in Proof- the comments of Harvey Lloyd prompted me to add the modified SCARF as below. Consistency is the sunshine that makes the balls of the SCARF pendulum work in harmony and allow the growth of seeds such as seed leaders.