Tell people what they want to hear, and they’ll like you. Tell people what they want to hear, but throw in some fancy lingo, and they’ll give you money. It’s a fascinating quirk in the human DNA that is ruthlessly exploited by 58% of those who call themselves “consultants” (it also never hurts to toss in a few made-up statistics). Whenever you meet a consultant that tells you what you want to hear, you are in financially dangerous territory, and you should drop to the ground and play dead until they start chatting with someone else. Do not worry about the consultant causing a scene by calling an ambulance – that would be actual helpful behavior, and consultants invariably refuse as a matter of professional pride to do anything which would actually be helpful.
The latest consultant madness burning through the local blogosphere is a concept being sold by Tamara Lowe called Motivational DNA Types. No, I’m not kidding – she really, truly does stoop to using the term DNA in her sales pitch so that gullible people will assume that there is some kind of fancy science involved. I assure you, though, that she cannot explain what deoxyribonucleic acid has to do with anything – she just picked the term because it sounds scientific.
To find out what “motivational DNA type” you are, you can take an online test – a common tool for “consultants” whose money-making scheme is so ambitiously far-reaching that they cannot be bothered to take your money one-on-one. I haven’t taken it, but several local bloggers have, and the results delivered are absolute classics. One local blogger announces that he is a “Visionary” (notice that the labels used by these schemes are always scientific or complimentary – nobody ever gets labeled as “lazy sack of dung” or “mediocre grind” or “self-promoting buffoon”, even though a 38.5% of the American workforce falls into those three categories – again with the statistics). Another local blogger is a Refiner and yet another is a Supporter.
(I’m not going to link to them, because these are some of the nicest people I know, and I don’t want them to feel like I’m making fun of them in particular, when this phenomenon is universal in a world increasingly resembling Dilbert.)
But take a second and read the “insight” that this test produces for Supporters:
CSI Motivators: Facts and information, peer respect, sincere appreciation, private recognition, specific positive feedback, an inspiring work environment, co-workers they enjoy, clearly defined objectives, a sense of accomplishment, and time to reflect and plan.
CSI De-Motivators: Hype and hyperbole, infringement on personal or family time, perceived inequity and demands for rapid change.
For Refiners it’s:
CSE Motivators: All the facts plus enough time to analyze them, competent team members, recognition by superiors, special privileges, freedom from controls and genuine respect.
CSE De-Motivators: High pressure deadlines, too many cooks in the kitchen, rapid change, infringement on personal or family time and perceived inequity.
For Visionaries it’s:
PVI Motivators: Inspiring work environment, opportunity to originate and initiate ideas, peer respect, credit for work accomplished and a strong sense of mission.
PVI De-Motivators: Rigid structure, routine, delays, time-consuming details and bureaucracy.
Umm, yeah. Which of these do you fall into? Is there anyone out there who is NOT demotivated by “perceived inequity”, “perceived inequity”, or “delays”? Is there anyone out there who is not motivated by “peer respect”, “genuine respect” or “peer respect”? In other words, is Ms. Lowe not simply wrapping up common traits in pseudo-scientific lingo and selling it as insight?
So, what’s the harm in a cutesy online test and a little HR mumbo-jumbo? Here’s the chilling conclusion of the Visionary:
The funny thing is that it is very accurate. I think this is a great tool for managers to read their employees, or sales people their potential customers. I ordered her book and plan on reading it. The simple online test gives you more than the usual; it actually gives you some tips on how to get motivated right now in ways it will work for you.
It’s like the Pod People in Invasion of the Body Snatchers! The guy who wrote that is a young, smart, hardworking guy who is probably going to rise up into middle management or upper management someday! He’s wasting his own money buying books now, but soon he will be using company resources to order the book for his entire department, or even for the division he manages. And then he’ll decide that his company should have a retreat and have Tamara Lowe come in and do her cutesy psychobabble intellectual striptease for everyone, and then the entire company will be sucked in to a world of artificial insight and simplistic, jingoistic gullibility.
This stuff makes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator seem like hard science, even though serious academics know that it is nothing more than a parlor game with all the real-world validity of a Ouija Board.
I don’t need an online test to generate the Gone Mild Gullibility Score. Just take a blank piece of paper, copy down the following questions, and put two ovals in the space next to the questions, labeling one “yes” and the other one “no” (a lot of people have their sense of inadequacy triggered by filling in ovals, and you want your subjects to feel as inadequate as possible for the whole “testing” thing to work):
1. Are you a Consultant? 0 Yes 0 No
2. Are you deeply suspicious of consultants and personality tests? 0 Yes 0 No
3. Do you believe in Personality Tests? 0 Yes 0 No
If you answered “yes” to question #1, let’s do lunch sometime and discuss book deals.
If you answered “yes” to question #2, you have a good head on your shoulders and will eventually lose your mind in a corporate environment. I pity you.
If you answered “yes” to question #3, you are a “Genius”. You are motivated by good things and demotivated by bad things. Send me cash, a check, or, best yet, a credit card authorization, and I will send you a deeper analysis consisting of multiple pages of the blatantly obvious. Your “genius”, however, needs “coaching” to fully develop, and, if you act within the next 7 days, or if you are from Kansas City, I have a special offer for you! For only half your earnings (gross, not take-home), I will serve as your personal life coach, and I absolutely guarantee you that your life will change.
(If, upon reading this last offer, you dropped to the ground and played dead, congratulations.)