Inspiration Fluency and Motivation In the Digital Age

In the previous three blog posts, we explained the three tactical digital fluencies, which include information (the ability to gather and use information), interaction (the ability to choose and be confident in one’s identity and in how to operate in different communities) and innovation (the ability to reflect on the current situation then generate and act on ideas for the future).

SociaLens digital fluency framework

These fluencies enable a person to do things for his or her self. In the next series of posts, we will talk about the strategic fluencies, which allow a person to enable or constrain other people.  We will start with what we call Inspiration Fluency, which is the ability to serve as or provide motivation for others, based on the ability to understand and recognize what stimulates people to act.

There are two key parts to this fluency. The first, leading, has to do with a person’s ability to serve as an example for others. The second, incentivizing, has to do with a person’s ability to understand the things that motivate others. While these are heavily related, they are not exactly the same. Let’s jump into two examples to illustrate:


Understanding how to serve as a person whose actions or instructions are worth following is not easy. And as the use of media shifts, certain things about the practice of leading do too. As an example of this, consider the ways that the post-Enron, information-everywhere world of Google, Wikileaks and Snopes has put a premium on leaders who are forced and/or enabled to operate in much more open, transparent ways, leading by earned respect and personal example rather than by positional authority and executive orders and policies. People who want to lead in this era are challenged to “lead” differently. One person who seems to have done this with a great deal of fluency is Tony Hsieh, CEO of, who uses Twitter as a way to blend his personal

Tony Hsieh twitter post about dropping laptop

and professional voice

Tony Hsieh twitter post about Zappos Amazon merger

demonstrating by example, many of the company’s core values, especially value #6, which is to “Build Open And Honest Relationships With Communication.”  As a result, Tony has modeled a level of personal and organizational transparency (in line with their stated company values) that has earned him huge amounts of respect from his employees, who can plainly see the acceptable limits of formality and informality with every 140-character post.


Another difficult but necessary skill is the ability to understand what incentives motivate people to do things. These incentives too can change with a shift in media usage. As an example, consider the amount of work it might have taken in the 1970’s for you to tell 100 of your friends about a product you like. 100 conversations x 5 minutes = almost 9 hours of your time, because you and your friends used to connect primarily via the media of voice (in-person), telephone or postal mail. Fast forward to 2010, and consider the amount of work it might take for you to tell 100 of your friends about a product you like. 1 Facebook update x 1 minute = 1 minute of your time.  As a result, the incentives that we need to do something like this begin to change as well, which means that any person who hopes to spur us to action needs to be aware of these shifts. In the case of a product recommendation, my motivation to reach out to 100 friends in the 1970’s would have skewed toward the need for some sort of monetary incentive in order to offset the financial cost of losing 9 hours of work time. In 2010, however, my motivation for reaching out to 100 friends may skew toward other motivations like reputation (“does the fact that i can share this great product with others help my popularity?”) or good will (“am i helping other people by recommending this product?”) or brand loyalty (“does my recommending the product help the company stay alive?”) or other non-financial motivations, because the time cost on my part is so low.

Indicators that the People In Your Organization Might Have Inspiration Fluency:

  1. Are you comfortable being more transparent, merging your professional and private sides as a leader when necessary? Is it easy for you to figure out when and where this is appropriate? Are you aware of, and comfortable with, the fact that your actions may be increasingly more powerful than your words? Are you aware of the impact that the increased use of digital media is having on the need to do these things and on the ways that you can lead more effectively?
  2. Are you able to understand the complicated motivations that people may have for doing what they do? Are you comfortable with the fact that paying a loyal customer to recommend a product online might actually de-motivate him or her  because it makes the action feel like a job, rather than an honor?  Are you aware that people within your organization are probably not just driven by money, but also by the desire for respect, increased connections, personal growth, honor, etc?

If you answered yes to the questions above for you or your colleagues, then there is a good chance that you have a high degree of inspiration fluency. If you answered no, then please keep up with us on this blog, where we’ll be exploring the ways that you can develop this and other fluencies. If you’re too impatient for that, then please contact us to see how we can help the people in your organization to develop them together.

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