Thursday, May 01, 2008

What motivates people? Harry Beckwith knows: The Beckwith 40

When I wrote about prof. Clay Shirky and giving people the chance to achieve higher needs, I was thinking about some of Harry Beckwith's genius.

Motivate using carrot and stick - donkey against blue skyWe're not talking brainwashing here, this is common-sense human nature from a brilliant observer of it. One of my favorites from Harry is: The ultimate test of a communication: Does it make people stop what they are doing? That gem of advice is #40 on the list he calls the Beckwith 40.

So, for an introduction to Harry, here's a baker's dozen from the Beckwith 40: (The subheads are my addition. For the full list, Rajesh Setty has published it with Harry's permission.)

First, Understand How They Think

1. Your biggest competitor is not a competitor; it’s your prospect’s indifference.
2. Your second-biggest competitor is not a competitor; it’s your prospect’s distrust.
3. Your biggest obstacle is whatever stereotype your prospect has formed about you and your industry.
4. Prospects decide in the first five seconds.
5. Prospects don’t try to make the best choice. They try to make the most comfortable choice.
6. At heart, every prospect is risk-averse, and risks are always more vivid than rewards.

Second, Understand How You Need To Think

7. Beware of what you think you know or have experienced; memories fail people constantly.
8. For the same reason, beware of what others say they know or have experienced.
9. Certainty is a trick your mind plays on you; keep yours open.
10. If everyone likes your idea, it’s not an idea. Good ideas always make enemies.
11. Don’t create something that everyone likes; create something that many people love.
12. Research never shows anything; it only suggests.

Value, Communication, Action, Understanding

13. Never take seriously what people say they think, because people are never sure. Trust only action.
14.-40. Full list


  1. "Certainty is a trick your mind plays on you ..." Fantastic!

    Thanks for sharing these gems, Dave! And thanks for the follow on Twitter (you should be warned, if you choose to follow me, you may well get lost!)

    I can't follow you back at the moment, my head might explode, as someone else said recently ... how on earth do people manage when they follow so many people? (Sometimes thousands!)

    But you have some great stuff on here, thank you ... I'll visit again!


    Dianne :o)

  2. AnonymousMay 04, 2008

    Very thought provoking. I'm always looking for ways to reach my potential clients that others do not think of.

    Funny thing is, I received my most recent client because I answered the phone and took the time to listen to the client.

    One of my competitors just sent the client to his Web site when asked about his prices.

    How's that for motivation?

  3. It's almost like people work to find ways to to sub-optimize their business dealing, isn't it? (I make a lot of mistakes myself.) But you have to at least be AWARE of what's better, and try to improve over time.

  4. This is great stuff!

  5. Great info here, thank you!