Saturday, May 08, 2010

Turtles all the way down...

Via Wikipedia, Stephen Hawking...

A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever", said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"


Wikipedia presents another version as well, this one due to Robert Anton Wilson...

William James, father of American psychology, tells of meeting an old lady who told him the Earth rested on the back of a huge turtle. "But, my dear lady", Professor James asked, as politely as possible, "what holds up the turtle?" "Ah", she said, "that's easy. He is standing on the back of another turtle." "Oh, I see", said Professor James, still being polite. "But would you be so good as to tell me what holds up the second turtle?" "It's no use, Professor", said the old lady, realizing he was trying to lead her into a logical trap. "It's turtles-turtles-turtles, all the way!"

My manager asked me the other day how I motivate my team's individuals. He was looking for that special thing I did for each team member. Now of course the group I lead each has very different personalities, experiences, interests quirks, goals, strengths, weaknesses, etc. But I was dumbfounded for an answer, for the simple reason that I basically try to do the same thing with each team member. I pay attention, and try to find the center to move everyone along. But as this is something I do, it wasn't easy going back to words. It was very odd.

Of course, paying attention is a singular activity with each individual, but it's not like it's fundamentally different activity from individual to individual.

I later explained this to my manager via e-mail. I hope I didn't confuse him.

There's other techniques I'm sure to "get more" motivation of out employees. There's that famous hierarchy of needs of Maslow, and criticisms of it as well.

But, at its core, any variations on motivating individuals is practice all the way down.

2 comments:

Lorem Ipsum said...

I love the two stories about the turtles. Perhaps that's where Terry Pratchett got the glimmerings of the idea for the turtle in Discworld?

Mumon said...

Could well be; it's evidently a well-worn story.