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To inspire or to engage, that is the question?

There might be a fundamental difference between wanting to inspire and wanting to engage that could possibly lead to different project solutions.

Photo of Tino Elgner
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Hi gang, this is my first post here and I am super excited to be part of this community. I have read a couple of your posts and thought the following analysis might add value to the research discussion at this point.

From a project management perspective, I have learned that the biggest difficulty in the beginning is to determine and put into words the “actual problem statement” that later can be shared and UNDERSTOOD by all stakeholders.

From my perspective, the question that is raised here uses two words that I find particularly interesting - “inspire” and “engage” – because they might divide the solution of the actual problem and therefore the resources that will need to be spend into two different directions by addressing/segmenting two different types of people.

To inspire from my perspective means to get another person to emotionally connect with a cause that results in a personal conviction of following a certain course of action. To take the hurdle of inspiration might take a long time but might also create a long lasting relationship, as in the end the need of an inspired person might mainly be centered on having the right platform and tools to turn his/her beliefs into something tangible. In other words, once inspiration has occurred engagement comes naturally.

To engage on the other side, usually requires a certain push from the outside to take place. Yes, engagement can come naturally through inspiration but engagement can also come through other things such as perceived rewards. In other words, we could get the youth do to something if we figure out what they would perceive as the right rewards for this kind of action, whereas an inspired youth might not need rewards at all.

From my perspective, when talking about “mentorship” the focus should be merely be on how to inspire, as a mentor strictly speaking doesn’t focus on external rewards as a motivational source. And in the end, inspiration usually breeds the desire to inspire others – a powerful word of mouth and thus marketing method.

However, the actual question now is, can we actually INSPIRE the youth or might it not be “easier” to mainly focus on engagement and thus the perceived rewards first, with the goal of creating inspiration through the actual actions?

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Photo of Lina Padilla

Tino,
Your distinction between the words inspire and engage are crucial for us because you are right, they have different meanings. Those words represent two different audiences of people who may participate. Thanks for your insight because it is something we must keep in mind moving forward!

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Photo of Tino Elgner

Thank you very much for your feedback Lina; truly appreciate it.

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Photo of Hal DuBois

I think the difference you're seeing in these words is important. It can also be thought of as a difference between "intrinsic" and "extrinsic" motivation. The key might be to assess how participants are initially approaching the project and using care not to quash the inspired with unwanted rewards and prizes (perhaps mild recognition and appreciation is still in order), and to nurture the inspiration of those with, at least initially, a more "what's in it for me" approach. I'll take engagement alone if it gives me the opportunity to inspire.

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Photo of Tino Elgner

harold, thank you very much for your comment. I totally agree with you in terms of taking engagement alone if it gives one the opportunity to inspire. Oftentimes, being able to do something "good", "simply feels good" as it is the right thing to do. However, I guess we both agree that sometimes people need a little push to find their own luck or to enter environments that have the potential to inspire. I am trying to come up with a way to incorporate that by focusing on perceived rewards, but as you said, in a way that does not kill the road to inspiration....for example by giving one the choice to accept the rewards for personal benefits or not, hopeing that throuhg the overall experience one would lose the "what is in it for me" attitude......any ideas?

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Photo of Hal DuBois

My apologies for taking so long to respond, Tino!

Obviously, this is a tricky aspect of the project's ultimate design and function. With mentoring, it seems to be a matter of emphasis, more than choice. In other words, properly designed and executed mentoring is rewarding, whether you like it or not! That doesn't mean these things that provide for a meaningful experience have to be tangible or of specific monetary value.

From what I'm reading here, for young invitees, it would be extremely helpful to frame the invitation to participate in terms of the purpose and benefits that will be realized on both side of the relationship. And while this isn't pure volunteerism, I'd think the emphasis that will prove most attractive will tip towards the intrinsic motivators.

Finally, I think you want to leave plenty of room for the participants to enjoy the process of discovering purpose, meaning and other benefits on their own.

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Photo of Tino Elgner

hi harold, thank you very much for your response. i totally agree that intrinsic motivators would prove to be the most powerful ones. however, they are also the most difficult to create if you ask me. on another note, one of the phrases you used i think hits it on the head..."enoying the process of discovering purpose"....this is it!!!

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Photo of Hal DuBois

Here's a piece from a comment made on a thread I started here called "Survey says..." Thought you'd find the expanded analysis it introduces on point: ...a piece written Rory Sutherland... vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group UK from a recent issue of Wired magazine. http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2014/02/features/just-do-it-for-status/viewall

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Photo of Tino Elgner

Hi Harold, sorry for the delay but it took me some time to find the time to actually read the article thoroughly enough. Although I do not agree with everything in the article, which is another topic though (I am open for a discussion if youd like), I take a couple of things away from it as it def is a thought provoking article. The example that comes to mind is that some elderly might not want to feel that they "need" to be mentored, as the process of aging and seeing that one cannot do all the things that one once was able to is already an ambiguous situation to be in. Thus, one might not want to create or focus on the actual need but "disguise" it in a way that clouds the mind to be open for change....in other words, receiving help without noticing it. This might also take the pressure of the involved to "have to" teach and to "have to" take something away from these encounters.