“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” —Steve Jobs
What does it take to create a company where everybody gives their best where they have their best to give?
It takes empathy.
It also takes encouraging people to be zestful, zany, and zealous.
It takes bridging the gap between the traits that make people come alive, and the traits that traditional management practices value.
In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel walks through what it takes to create a company where everyone gives their best so that employees thrive and companies create sustainable competitive advantage.
Resilience and Creativity: The Traits that Differentiate Human Beings from Other Species
Resilience and creativity are what separate us from the pack.
“Ask your colleagues to describe the distinguishing characteristics of your company, and few are likely to mention adaptability and inventiveness. Yet if you ask them to make a list of the traits that differentiate human beings from other species, resilience and creativity will be near the top of the list. We see evidence of these qualities every day — in ourselves and in those around us. “
We Work for Organizations that Aren’t Very Human
People are adaptive and creative, but they often work for organizations that are not.
“All of us know folks who’ve switched careers in search of new challenges or a more balanced life. We know people who’ve changed their consumption habits for the sake of the planet. We have friends and relatives who’ve undergone a spiritual transformation, or risen to the demands of parenthood, or overcome tragedy. Every day we meet people who write blogs, experiment with new recipes, mix up dance tunes, or customize their cars. As human beings, we are amazingly adaptable and creative, yet most of us work for companies that are not. In other words, we work for organizations that aren’t very human.”
Modern Organizations Deplete Natural Resilience and Creativity
Why do so many organizations underperform? They ignore or devalue the capabilities that make us human.
“There seems to be something in modern organizations that depletes the natural resilience and creativity of human beings, something that literally leaches these qualities out of employees during daylight hours. The culprit? Management principles and processes that foster discipline, punctuality, economy, rationality, and order, yet place little value on artistry, nonconformity, originality, audacity, and élan. To put it simply, most companies are only fractionally human because they make room for only a fraction of the qualities and capabilities that make us human. Billions of people show up for work every day, but way too many of them are sleepwalking. The result: organizations that systematically underperform their potential.”
Adaptability and Innovation Have Become the Keys to Competitive Success
There’s a great big gap between what makes people great and the management systems that get in the way.
“Weirdly, many of those who labor in the corporate world–from lowly admins to high powered CEOs–seem resigned to this state of affairs. They seem unperturbed by the confounding contrast between the essential nature of human beings and the essential nature of the organization in which they work. In years past, it might have been possible to ignore this incongruity, but no longer–not in a world where adaptability and innovation have become the sine qua non of competitive success. The challenge: to reinvent our management systems so they inspire human beings to bring all of their capabilities to work every day.”
The Human Capabilities that Contribute to Competitive Success
Hamel offers his take on what the relative contribution of human capabilities that contribute to value creation, recognizing that we now live in a world where efficiency and discipline are table stakes.
“The human capabilities that contribute to competitive success can be arrayed in a hierarchy. At the bottom is obedience–an ability to take direction and follow rules. This is the baseline. Next up the ladder is diligence. Diligent employees are accountable. They don’t take shortcuts. They are conscientious and well-organized. Knowledge and intellect are on the next step. Most companies work hard to hire intellectually gifted employees. They value smart people who are eager to improve their skills and willing to borrow best practices from others. Beyond intellect lies initiative. People with initiative don’t wait to be asked and don’t wait to be told. They seek out new challenges and are always searching for new ways to add value. Higher still lies the gift of creativity. Creative people are inquisitive and irrepressible. They’re not afraid of saying stupid things. They start a lot of conversations with, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if …" And finally, at the top lies passion.”
The Power of Passion
Passion makes us do dumb things. But it’s also the key to doing great things.
Via Via The Future of Management:
“Passion can make people do stupid things, but it’s the secret sauce that turns intent into accomplishment. People with passion climb over obstacles and refuse to give up. Passion is contagious and turns one-person crusades into mass movements. As the English novelist E.M. Forster put it, ‘One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.’”
Obedience is Worth Zip in Terms of Competitive Advantage
Rule-following employees won’t help you change the world.
“I’m not suggesting that obedience is literally worth nothing. A company where no one followed any rules would soon descend into anarchy. Instead, I’m arguing that rule-following employees are worth zip in terms of their competitive advantage they generate. In a world with 4 billion nearly distributed souls, all eager to climb the ladder of economic progress, it’s not hard to find billable, hardworking employees. And what about intelligence? For years we’ve been told we’re living in the knowledge economy; but as knowledge itself becomes commoditized, it will lose much of its power to create competitive advantage.”
Obedience, Diligence, and Expertise Can Be Bought for Next to Nothing
You can easily buy obedience, diligence, and expertise from around the world.
But that’s not what will make you the next great company or the next great thing or a great place to work.
“Today, obedience, diligence, and expertise can be bought for next to nothing. From Bangalore to Guangzhou, they have become global commodities. A simple example: turn over your iPod, and you’ll find six words engraved on the back that foretell the future of competition: ‘Designed in California. Made in China.’ Despite the equal billing, the remarkable success of Apple’s music business owes relatively little to the company’s network of Asian subcontractors. It is a credit instead to the imagination of Apple’s designers, marketers, and lawyers. Obviously not every iconic product is going to be designed in California, not nor manufactured in China. “
You Need Employees that are Zestful, Zany, and Zealous
If you want to bring out the best in people and what they are capable of, aim for zestful, zany, and zealous.
“The point, though, is this: if you want to capture the economic high ground in the creative economy, you need employees who are more than acquiescent, attentive, and astute–they must also be zestful, zany, and zealous.”
If you want to bring out your best, then break our your zest and get your zane on.