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The Origins of the Motivational Map

Updated: Jul 5, 2022

We have an updated version of this article, with a full whitepaper, which you can view here:


Frequently, people ask me “where do the Maps come from?” This question is very important, because it is not only about the origins of the Maps – the thinking that they might be rooted in – but also about their validity. Anyone who has created a product or service will know, especially if they are trying to do something relatively new, that the question of validity is a battle that never truly ends. One is reminded a little of the questions of the Pharisees when they interrogate Jesus, “On whose authority do you say these things?” People want to know what “authority” we have to create something, or change something, or make a statement about the world. Whilst the Motivational Map is ISO certified (17065), and has been proven “in action” for over fourteen years, these are not, in themselves, enough to address the question of “validity” and “authority” when it is raised in earnest. Something more is required, and it is my intention to shed light on that something!

But before I go on to answer this question “Where do the Maps come from?”, it’s worth me saying what the Maps are in the here and now. The Motivational Map is a self-perception inventory that measures what motivates us and how motivated we are in our current role. It is a tool that offers us insight into what really drives us and energises us, both in the workplace and beyond.

The Maps have their roots in three primary sources: Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and the Enneagram. There is a common misconception that the Map is a “personality profiling” tool, but nothing could be further from the truth. The thing about personality profiles is that they are more pervasive, and therefore more familiar to organisations. In addition, they are easier to validate because, by definition, they always produce the same result, which researchers love. However, Maps does not measure fixed personality archetypes, but rather internal drivers which stem from core belief systems. The oft-forgotten playwright Christopher Marlowe once wrote the line “Aye, think so still, till experience change thy mind” (Dr Faustus, 1604). Our beliefs change over time with new experiences (or at least, they do if we are healthy and not completely close-minded), and so our internal drivers will also change in correlation to changes in our beliefs. This is not to say that some motivators may not be fixed in place for a very long time, perhaps even a lifetime, but unlike personality profiling tools, we do not reduce people to one archetype (though I recognise here there are exceptions, such as Myers Briggs, that offers a more multifaceted analysis), but recognise that we likely have more than one motivator and driver and also de-motivators.

In fact, by cross-examining the Career Anchors, Hierarchy of Needs, and Enneagram, I discovered that there were nine motivators driving human behaviour, and that these nine motivators were grouped into three sets of three due to properties that they shared. For example, some motivators were directed toward the future: creating new things, seeking freedom and independence, and making a difference to others. Others, were more rooted in the past: security and predictability, belonging, and recognition. This was also correlated by the models I had used to construct the Maps, as the Career Anchors were more focused on “work goals” (therefore future orientated), the Hierarchy of Needs on present concerns (present “needs” literally), and the Enneagram on a more fixed and rooted “past self” (although it does also have a model for growth in that there are personality types we need to move “toward” to overcome our deficiencies and blindspots). It should be noted that in terms of the “pyramid” of Maslow’s Hierarchy, the nine motivators sit above the level of “survival” or “biological needs” (such as food, and shelter). Therefore, they are what might be called “secondary” drivers. Still, having said that, these drivers are awesomely powerful, and once we are fed and watered, they will dictate to us what our true priority is.

I have talked about the nine motivators, so it is worth me now explaining what each of these are:

DEFENDER – the need for security

FRIEND – the need for belonging

STAR – the need for recognition

DIRECTOR – the need for control

BUILDER – the need for material gain

EXPERT – the need for knowledge

CREATOR – the need to create

SPIRIT – the need for independence and freedom

SEARCHER – the need to make a difference

The Nine Motivators

I mentioned that unlike personality profiling, we do not reduce people to one archetype. This is because, learning from Maslow, we actually have all nine motivators in our profile. We need all nine, in fact, in order to be fully happy and rounded human beings. However, these are in an order of priority. If one were to think of the nine motivators as ingredients in a dish, then each person has a unique recipe, requiring different quantities of these ingredients. What the Maps does is give you a detailed breakdown of that secret recipe, so that you, and also the people around you, can take action and feed your motivations.

One important thing to mention is that most people believe they already know what motivates them, but when faced with a Maps report, or some other evidence of their inner drivers, they often find themselves stunned and surprised (but accepting) of the truth, because it is rarely as they imagined it to be. As I mentioned earlier, our motivations are linked to our core beliefs, and therefore, they are deeper than conscious thought and occupy the realm of emotion – which is irrational and deeper. We may “think” we want secure jobs, or a nice house, or a fast car, but deeper within our psyche lie our real motivators, which might tell and entirely different story. By tapping these deeper drivers, we can access a reservoir of energy and enthusiasm that can fuel us in our day-to-day lives and lead us to success and fulfilment. They say, “If you do a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” and I am a profound believer in that statement. When we do work we love, aka: that fulfils our motivators, we are in a state of “play”, like a child, and is there anything more joyful than that?

So, to answer the question of “where do the Maps come from?”, is in some ways an analog of the entire process of “Mapping Motivation”. Our motivations lie within us, and have done all along. The Maps come from a desire to understand and chart these vast, yet hidden, psychological territories.

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