Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Purpose and Drive=Opportunity

I have spoken a lot about opportunity here. Opportunity for organizations, opportunity for people, opportunity for you.
Daniel Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About Motivates Us compiles impressive evidence that beyond a certain measure, it is not money that motivates us. What does motivate and drive us, is a sense of purpose, a sense of mastering something, a sense of autonomy in how we approach our work and lives.

Where then, is the opportunity?

With new philosophies for organization based on living systems, instead of the outdated philosophies based on mechanical systems. With an ever broadening of scientific understanding of how we function as individuals, and as groups and organizations. With new tools for communicating and collaboration. With new mediums for connecting people and ideas--all coupled with an economy that is based more on knowledge than on physical objects* in a recessionary economic environment presents enormous opportunity for individuals and organizations alike to transform themselves.
There is opportunity for harnessing the full potential of an organizational workforce like never before. There is opportunity for harnessing the loyalty of customers like never before. Opportunity for harnessing both of those forces into innovative new products and services. For increasing productivity, while finding cost savings. There is opportunity for creating the kind of sustainable organizations and business practices that can build the kind of sustainable communities and cities which we'll need to cope with the mega trends of the 21st century.

Organizations that take the lead in being the kinds of public and private enterprises that society will need to cope with these mega trends can harness that sense of purpose as vision for themselves, and for the people that make up the organization.
Organizations that take the lead in adapting the new philosophies and practices of living systems during periods of stagnant economic conditions--think of this as re-tooling--can not only find business opportunity that others may be blinded to, but can also hit the ground running as economic conditions improve. Great organizations will be the ones that lead society from out of the muck of the economic crash.

With fresher organizational mindsets and culture, all manners of public and private enterprise can re-invent themselves and become the dynamos that lead not only their respective industries, but also set the new standards for all business practices.
These will be the kinds of organizations that attract not just the top talent out there, but better still get more out of the talent they have.

The almost unlimited array of opportunities that exist today lie well outside the means of a simple blogpost, and, of course, of the singular mind of a consultant writing a blog.  The opportunities will not likely fall from the sky. There will be more than a few organizations that are already positioned, and those that find opportunity by luck. For almost every other organization, they'll have to re-invent and find it for themselves.
And that will take open mindedness, diverse collaboration, with cultural change and broad organizational buy in.
It will be hard work.

Tom Peters, with his seminal work Thriving on Chaos (1987) and Peter Senge with his seminal work The Fifth Discipline (1990) laid the direction and groundwork for creating these kinds of organizations. The theory and practice is not that new. Yet the standard mechanical model of hierarchy, structure and control, and our seemingly affinity for the comfort it provides is still the dominant paradigm that resists the kind of change needed to take advantage of benefits those kinds of organizational models bring with them.
Breaking free of the bonds of outdated organizational models and mindsets isn't easy. But the path is not a jungle, the theories are not fads.

We have to not only want to take the lead of our own organizations, but also open our minds to how these kinds of models can lead the way for a broader, healthier, sustainable economic society that can cope with the challenges, the change and the complexity. And harness the myriad opportunities.

We all win if we do.

* Even if making physical objects is the backbone of your business, it is the intrinsic knowledge around the making, manufacturing, and marketing of that product that makes the difference. As I say in my talks, anybody can make a widget these days, it is the value and knowledge of your work force that is the competitive advantage.

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