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Give Autonomy - Get Innovation

Give Autonomy - Get Innovation

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." (Antoine de Saint Exupery, author of The Little Prince) 

I love this eloquent reminder to search for purpose and articulate to others the big idea of where we're going. In a narrower sense, this quote is also about motivation and leadership. A couple months back I blogged about Dan Pink's book "A Whole New Mind"; now I came across a video in which he talks about the surprising science of motivation. David Belden writes about Dan’s latest book "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" (2010) that the "more significant revelations in Drive are:

  1. A description of the Conceptual Worker – a person who not only possesses the skills to accomplish a task, but understands the relevance of that task to the larger vision of the enterprise.
  2. The movement in organizational structure from Information Workers (skill set) to Conceptual Workers (mindset); allowing organizations to hire fewer workers at a higher level.
  3. Implementation of Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), which eliminates the need for over-the-shoulder supervision of the workforce.

What this means in practical terms, of course, is a major shift from management to leadership. Dan writes “Perhaps it’s time to toss the very word ‘management’ into the linguistic ash heap alongside ‘icebox’ and ‘horseless carriage.’ This era doesn’t call for better management. It calls for a renaissance of self-direction.” Listen below to Daniel Pink speak on the surprising science of motivation, focusing on three areas:

  • Autonomy - the urge to direct our own lives
  • Mastery - the desire to get better and better at something that matters
  • Purpose - a yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

Management is a 20th century concept that works great for compliance, but leadership that attempts to establish self direction works better if you want engagement and innovation. A well-known example is Google's "20 Percent Time", which provides employees a day a week to work on whatever they want. What innovation results from such autonomy? Half of Google's new products originate from employees' use of "20 Percent Time". Maybe lesser-known than Google but equally significant to (re)ALIGN clients is the success they enjoy when they hire us to build a new business. We develop the game plan that fits their needs and then execute it - autonomously and collaboratively - to add to clients' enterprise value both in the USA and in China. We conceive a better mousetrap that creates and harvests more demand more profitably. Sometimes we rebuild businesses (in a recent case turning a double-digit EBITDA loss (% of sales) towards profit within 8 months), or we build new profitable businesses in record time (in another case we defined, refined, and scaled a new business from nothing to an eight figure revenue stream within about 18 months). Our clients give us autonomy, we give them innovation and new business. Give autonomy. Get innovation.

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