I don’t know where this comes from but it’s in posts and posters all over. It’s perhaps one of these interpret-as-you-wish-quotes, universal quotations in search of a purpose or simply, a well articulated, clever idea
I’ve seen it applied to sports, of course, and also to many other things. But the truth is that it has serious implications for you and me in this fuzzy world of management, leadership, organizations and their dynamics.
We tend to focus a lot on the input side of things: motivation, effort, even happiness. We still unconsciously or consciously think of us as a machine that needs fuel to work. It sounds reasonable. So reasonable that we spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about the amount of food, the quality of the food and the food suppliers. Motivational speeches, team buildings, all are food providers. And then, well, stuff will happen, we seem to think. But motivation without a platform to action, a system, a process or some rules of the game could actually be counterproductive and end up in demotivation.
I have written many times, and in the process irritated many people, that having rebels, mavericks, volunteers, passionate people and similar tribes in the room does not guarantee change. On the contrary, you may have change in 20 different directions, or just glorious noise. And the riskier type of noise is the one that the corporation adopts as a sign of progress (‘look how progressive we are, we even have those John and Peter rebels, pushing the envelope, challenging us; not many other organizations would have that; how cool is that?’) but also an alibi for not serious change.
So yes, in the corporate Everest we indeed find lots of corpses that once were motivated people, mavericks, rebels and incredibly passionate change agents.
Change agent minus a platform equals autistic change.
In Viral Change™  we take care of the platform, big time. We don’t put the champions/activists together until the platform is ready, until there is a serious, well orchestrated backstage system of support. And not just for the next week or so.
Incidentally, back to inputs and outputs, the human capital industry (HR, OD, traditional management) has been historically so in love with inputs that it finds hard to get rid of this model. It still sees employee engagement as an input, but it’s an output; or still sees motivation as an input, a fuel, but it is also an output. Great motivation comes from success. Perhaps if we focus on success, we will get motivation and employee engagement.
First published in 2016.