In my last post, I shared an interesting document from WWII, the Simple Sabotage Field Guide. In that post, I focused on the advice that is given for business disruption. However, there is also an interesting section on motivating saboteurs, aptly called “Motivating the Saboteur,” that I think can be helpful when thinking about innovation in our organizations.
This section clearly speaks to the need to treat people like humans and understand that they have intrinsic motivations that are critical. Interestingly, none of these sections speak to payment even though the field agents were trying to motivate people to act in ways that were life threatening. You would think that would increase their odds of drafting people. Instead they tapped into these intrinsic motivations. In one piece of advice, the field agent is advised that “the saboteur may become discouraged unless he feels that he is a member of a large, though unseen, group of saboteurs operating against the enemy or the government of his own country and elsewhere.” This is important for all of us. The idea that we are part of something bigger than just the work that we personally do is important. We need to find ways to develop this in our own teams and employees. There is great advice on how to make that happen in this guide.
Another major part of the advice has to do with changing the existing ways of thinking in the mind of the saboteur. Of course, we want to encourage healthy and productive organizational change and not sabotage but the advice that “a reasonable amount of humor In the presentation of suggestions for’ simple sabotage will relax tensions of fear” is very helpful even when you are encouraging employees to engage more in productive efforts. In the bureaucratic settings that you find in large organizations or government organizations, we can expect that there will be a lot of hesitation on the part of the employees simply to the inherent danger in making changes. The more that we can do to ease that fear, the more successful we’ll be in helping people change the way they think about their work.
Read the rest of this portion of the field manual for some really good insights on how to motivate people and encourage them to be productive. Share your perspective on this in the comments so we can all learn together.