Monday, August 21, 2006
A pioneering thinker in the field of workplace motivation, David
McClelland developed his theories chiefly while at Harvard in the
1950-60's with experiments such as this: Volunteers were asked to throw
rings over pegs rather like the fairground game; no distance was
stipulated, and most people seemed to throw from arbitrary, random
distances, sometimes close, sometimes farther away.
However a small group of volunteers, whom McClelland suggested were
strongly achievement-motivated, took some care to measure and test
distances that would produce an ideal challenge; not too easy, and not
Interestingly a parallel exists in biology, known as the 'overload
principle', which is commonly applied to fitness and exercising, ie., in
order to develop fitness and/or strength the exercise must be
sufficiently demanding to increase existing levels, but not so demanding
as to cause damage or strain.
McClelland identified the same need for a 'balanced challenge' in the
approach of achievement-motivated people. People with a strong
achievement-motivation need set themselves challenging and realistic
goals, they need the challenge, but they also need to be sure they'll
accomplish the aim.
We need to set realistic and achievable goals in life and to break these
goals down further into doable tasks. I am not suggesting that goals can
not be lofty, just that you have to be realistic with your abilities. We
each have unique God given talents that we should try not to waste but if
you have a great brain for math and can't sing on key, skip trying to be
a Broadway singer and head to a University.