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The Dynamics of the Engagement Palette

In the post entitled The Engagement Palette, I introduced the idea that levels of engagement fluctuate based on two key factors: volition and actual investment, noting that actual investment is dependent on available resources. In this post, I will explore the dynamic movement that occurs relative to these 4 key engagement states as people respond to the challenges in various engagement contexts.

When seeking to evaluate engagement the tempero-spatial context is critical. Engagement can be assessed over time relative to a specific context, such as a role, a brand, a course of study or an online platform. It can also be observed on a moment-to-moment basis as individuals navigate the various challenges which they encounter through the day, constantly engaging and disengaging from numerous interactions with other entities.

None of the four states of engagement are absolute or permanent. Just like colour palettes, the four states embrace myriad hues. An individual can exhibit degrees of each of these states and most importantly, can move from one state to another at any pace relative to one or more other entities. The slower the pace of movement the less noticeable it will be. Everyone can move to any point on the landscape from one moment to the next depending on their personal resources and the choices they make relative to the challenges of the dynamic context in which they operate.

Becoming less engaged: Individuals who are engaged may become disengaged, depleted or compulsive.

When an individual feels the need to continue to be involved in an interaction despite wanting to withdraw, they will tend towards compulsive investment. They may be physically, socially or mentally engaged but lack spiritual or emotional commitment. Sometimes the interaction changes and becomes less rewarding. At other times nothing changes in the focal interaction but another more appealing interaction becomes possible.

True disengagement is lack of investment of personal resources fundamentally driven by lack of will; a lack of desire to engage. When an engaged individual ceases to find an interaction appealing or rewarding and choses to stop investing, they become disengaged. This may occur when the interaction changes or when a more rewarding alternative interaction arises.

Highly engaged individuals tend to work hard and may deplete their personal resources, even if the nature of the interaction is unchanged. They may simply become exhausted and cease to be able to meet the challenge although they wish to continue to do so. It is also possible that the challenge in the context may increase requiring more resources than the individual possesses and causing them to become relatively depleted, even though they have the desire to continue to invest.

Compulsion and depletion can both lead to disengagement as the resources and will to invest in an interaction become compromised. This can happen as the context becomes less rewarding or replenishing.

Becoming more engaged: Individuals who are disengaged, depleted or compulsive may become engaged.

When an individual is depleted they may become more engaged and be able to invest more if the challenge becomes less demanding and more aligned with their personal resources. Alternatively, the individual may be given more resources to supplement those they already have, or they may be given the opportunity to replenish their energies through rest or enrichment.

Through active re-design or passive evolution of the context or through personal change, a compulsive individual may find increased reward in the interaction and become more truly engaged, adding an element of desire to the investment of physical, social or intellectual resources. Individuals who are truly disengaged lack the will to interact and choose not to invest their personal resources. They may be forced to invest through some form of internal or external compulsion and from there discover some value in the interaction and become engaged.

True engagement can only occur when the interaction is perceived by the individual to be rewarding in some way. In this case the individual will be motivated to develop the resources if necessary to become fully engaged.

In the next post, I will explore The Engagement Context, especially the challenges which impact an individual’s choice and ability to engage.

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