Friday, August 14, 2009

Passion, Creativity and Initiative

Quick question: What would Gary Hamel say are the most important qualities of a successful company of the future? As you might have guessed, the answer is in the title. He believes that firms, and the people that make them up, will need to focus on passion, creativity and initiative for success in the future. Right now, he argues, we ask for and receive obedience, diligence and intellect from our people, and frown on passion, creativity and initiative.

Gary was talking about the company in general, and management practice specifically, but he could have just as well been talking about innovators. What makes a successful innovator? Someone who identifies an unmet need or new opportunity, has the interest and passion to attempt to solve that problem or opportunity and is able to think creatively about new solutions. When you start thinking about the attributes of innovators within your firm, and what you should expect from people on the "innovation team", these capabilities are "must haves".

Why? Because the work demands it and the corporation resists it. We still work in very top down, hierarchical organizations with strong reinforcing bureaucracies that channel the employee's capabilities and expect diligence and obedience, not initiative or creativity. Most organizations can't tolerate individuals or teams that work outside of a specific set of guidelines or that challenge or threaten the status quo. Imagine if all firms worked to these guidelines. Yahoo would still be the only search engine, Microsoft the only operating system.

Fortunately many individuals and small teams have passion, creativity and initiative. Many of these teams are called entrepreneurs. Funny how entrepreneurs and innovators share many of the same attributes and interests. Now, the question becomes, can larger organizations shift to reward and expect passion, creativity and initiative so that they look more like entrepreneurial firms, or will much of the truly innovative work still be accomplished in smaller, entrepreneurial firms, which disrupt the larger dinosaurs?

Yes, it may be a wrenching change, but the sooner we tap into our team's interests and passions, and ask them to take the initiative rather than simply handing down strategy as a fait accompli, then we get their full attention, buy-in and commitment to use all of their skills and knowledge in ways we haven't even begun to tap into yet. Most organizations are afraid of "passion", and many people clock a 9-5 day every day and then go home to do things they are really interested in doing. Imagine working at a place where your interests and passions were fully engaged. Then, your initiative and creativity would be fully engaged as well.

To be successful over the long run in innovation, firms simply must begin to change the organizational structure and reward systems so that people can bring their interests and passions to work, and leverage their creativity. Today, trying to do too much of that is frowned on. We're still Taylorists at heart. In the future, we may all be "Hamelists".
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 7:45 AM


Blogger Andrew said...

What would Gary Hamel say are the most important qualities of a successful company of the future?

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