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Motivational Maps - The Underlying Theory

Jan at the 2018 Motivational Maps Conference
Jan at the 2018 Motivational Maps Conference

Motivational Maps Licensed Practitioner

Having grown close to Susannah Brade-Waring and Heath Waring (of Aspirin Business and Motivated Performance) over the last few years, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to Motivational Maps and the power of them before I was 18 years old.

Whenever I left university to visit home, I would see Sue and Heath, hear about Maps, and I quickly became more and more interested. By June 2018, my Accreditation as a Licensed Practitioner with Aspirin Business was complete, and I was fortunate enough to become the youngest Motivational Maps Practitioner in the world! (for now!)

Now that I am accredited, I love exploring the world of Motivational Maps and their varying uses with a broad range of people. Their versatility means that it can be used not only to boost productivity in individuals, but also within teams within business, but what I like most is the way they create profound change in people (as it has done for me), and this is incredibly exciting as a Psychology student!

Psychology Student

The downside of studying psychology at university is that I cannot focus on Motivational Maps full time, but the upside is that I get to study how people work every day. A love of people has driven me to study Psychology at the University of Southampton and will soon drive me to study Clinical Psychology in the Netherlands.

With a passion for understanding how people work, and more importantly how people work happily, I am always striving to work with people on a deeper level. The combination of psychological interest and Motivational Maps is (in my bias opinion) perfect, as I can merge academia and practical skills to understand people and help them to understand themselves better.

Activist for Wellbeing

Motivational Maps first interested me thanks to the insight it provides into how satisfied people are with the drivers in their life. Having volunteered for Student Minds, Nightline, and as a Welfare Officer at university, the possibility to use Motivational Maps to uncover personal struggles with motivation, as well as motivation with work, is of utmost importance to me.

The Basis of Motivational Maps, What does Motivational Maps focus on?

Motivational Maps has the ability to focus on the motivation profile of individuals, teams, and organisations, all by observing what they value in the workplace. By using a quick and simple-to-use questionnaire, people can answer questions about their general preferences, and the answers to these result in their motivators being ranked in order of performance. Following that, just nine easy questions are used to examine how satisfied each of the motivators are.

Why not use personality tests instead of a self-perception inventory?

Although personality tests are very popular at the moment and have a large market (the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator market is said to be worth $20 million in 2013), this does not make them infallible:

  • Individuals are forced to take on narrow labels that are mutually exclusive and binary.

  • Personality tests often promise a semi-permanent personality profile, yet after 5 weeks 50% of people will have ‘changed’ in personality (Pittenger, 1993).

  • The enneagram is a model based on spiritual foundations, which cannot be tested and is therefore by nature unscientific.

  • The ‘Big Five’ has been criticised for lacking any predictive validity (Hough, 2011).

With promises of perfect, permanent profiling, it is hard to accept that they truly deliver. Often they are untestable, lack reliability and/or validity, and importantly lack real world application. It has long been argued that personality tests are designed to make us feel good by providing us with revelations about ourselves, but often this is because the system by which these ‘revelations’ are uncovered is murky and based on questionable interpretations of responses.

For this reason, we focus on a self-perception inventory, and also on Motivation. By using a self-perception inventory rather a psychometric measure, we needn’t rely on ‘spirituality’ or other bases for the test; we can just use respondent’s answers. Furthermore, by not relying on mutually exclusive categories, people can understand the importance of all Motivators without pitting them against each other. Motivational Maps also recognises the possibility, and importance, of profiles changing with time.

With this in mind, we will now examine some of the key foundations of Motivational Maps, all with their own features both good and bad, and then once again place the focus on Motivational Maps and how this can help in businesses with it’s own unique strengths.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs


First proposed in 1943, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory that focuses on five tiers of human need. Only by satisfying the lower needs can the higher tiers be accessed, highlighting the importance of people meeting physiological and safety needs before developing their self-esteem and self-actualisation (which is the ultimate goal according to Maslow). The reason self-actualisation is valued is because it is a ‘B-need’, whereas all the other tiers focus on ‘D-needs’, also known as deficiency needs. Ultimately, by satisfying D-needs, and eventually developing the B-needs, an individual’s motivation is said to increase.


Maslow’s hierarchy of needs succeeds in being a simple and accessible model of motivation for people to understand. Intuitively, it makes sense to satisfy more basic needs before meeting ‘higher’ needs; this is likely why it is so widely accepted and valued. Furthermore, it can be applied to businesses, whether they are trying to grow and understand employee needs, or when marketing products to a target market.


Despite its wide acceptance, Maslow’s hierarchy has been criticised on numerous fronts. A major issue is that there is no empirical method of measuring tier-satisfaction (McLeod, 2007). Due to this it is nigh on impossible to determine how and when higher levels begin to develop. Furthermore, the idea that you must satisfy lower levels before developing higher levels has long been disputed, with Hagerty (1998) finding that growth on one level can correlate positively with growth on other levels.

Edgar Schein's Career Anchors
Edgar Schein's Career Anchors


First introduced by Edgar Schein, career anchors have become a popular way to test and identify an individual’s talents, motives, attitudes, and values. By answering 40 questions, respondents can be given one of eight ‘anchors’ based on the highest score for any of them.


Unlike Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, career anchors succeed in accounting for some level of individuality, recognising that different people have different motivations. This immediately allows businesses to use the tool to tailor their motivational strategies to individual needs. Furthermore, these anchors can help individual to motivate themselves, identify what roles they enjoy, and seek out opportunities that they are motivated by, are good at, and ultimately enjoy.


One key issue when using Schein’s career anchors is the limited number of results, as although it recognises individual differences, it ultimately suggests that there are just eight ‘profiles’. When we look at other tests such as Myers-Briggs, the Big Five, or even Motivational Maps, we see that these recognise the complexity of humans and so allow for many more types of profile or personality than just eight. Interestingly, Costigan et al. (2018) found evidence that a nine-factor model may be more valid than the career anchor’s eight factor model, potentially supporting the validity of Motivational Maps nine motivators.

The Enneagram
The Enneagram


Having endured centuries of human development and changing ideas, the enneagram is an almost timeless model of human psyche that aims to identify and explain nine interconnected personality types. Although people are generally said to have just one personality type, ‘wings’ are the adjacent types that can often play a role, or they can be balanced allowing someone to fully embody just one personality type. Furthermore, the ‘security’ and ‘stress’ lines are said to also be connected to one’s personality.


By being based on arguably spiritual foundations, many people find the enneagram satisfying to use and easy to understand and apply to themselves. Many claim that they help in almost any life domain by improving human connection, communication, and relationships. In research, it has been found on occasion to have high predictive validity, and exist as a powerful tool for identifying potential (Sutton et al., 2013) It is almost undoubtedly this feeling of increased insight into the self that has allowed the enneagram to grow so popular, and so making it’s concepts such as nine personality types also widely accepted.


Throughout the years the enneagram has been labelled by many as a pseudoscience, as it’s vague descriptions and methodology makes it impossible to scientifically test (Carroll, 2011). This immediately serves to cast doubt on whether or not it really does profile individuals, or whether it simply makes use of the Forer/Barnum Effect incredibly well. Furthermore, applying the enneagram in a business or professional environment can prove to be troublesome;

Motivational Maps Logo
The Motivational Maps Logo

Evaluation of Motivational Maps

Having looked at the personality tests, anchors, and motivational tools, we can now identify both the foundations and the competitors of Motivational Maps.

However, it is important now to reflect on what has been learnt from this, and how we can use the evaluations of these other tools to further our understanding of Motivational Maps.

Firstly, the reductionist approach of many tools is a large drawback to really understanding individuals. Schein’s career anchors limit people to one of eight anchors, and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs arguably ignores individual needs, but this is where Motivational Maps™ succeeds. By assessing and reporting on all of an individual’s motivators, it is possible to build a picture of someone that is not simplified, thus understanding their motivational nuances. This makes it infinitely easier to truly tailor motivational strategies to the workforce, rather than assuming that everyone must simply fulfil yet another layer of deficiency needs as suggested by Maslow.

Reliability is another issue, with many personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Enneagram revealing that personality ‘changes’ unexpectedly with little explanation. Motivational Maps not only expects changes to occur, but can explain why changes in motivators happen and use this to further guide the motivation of an individual or team. This understanding of change is important when providing an accurate and transparent tool to understand both individuals and teams within businesses.

Importantly, Motivational Maps has a focus that few other tools do; MOTIVATION. Although this sounds obvious, many of the other tools mentioned exist as personality tests or models of human need and have been interpreted for businesses. On the other hand, Motivational Maps™ is built from the ground up to assess motivators and how satisfied they are, making them incredibly useful for businesses looking to focus directly on how to motivate, and understand the motivation of, their employees.


It is vital to realise that ultimately there needs to be more research on all of these tools. Without sufficient research it is hard to properly assess the validity and reliability of tools. This means that although models such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has been found to sometimes lack reliability, there is even less data on other tools, and so we cannot dismiss them on this basis. Motivational Maps and other tools exist not to be assessed by academics, but to be used! If a tool can provide positive results, then that should ultimately be what it is judged on.


Thank you for reading and hope to see you on October 17th 2019 at the UK Motivational Maps Conference - Jan Feeley

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