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Self-directed innovator

Yesterday I sat in a presentation and heard the target group of Google’s products. They call it the self-directed innovator – the new class of workers that transformed out of the Knowledge Worker of the 1980s and the Office Worker of the 1950s. Some of the characteristics of self-directed innovator:

– Not process driven
– Collaborates with broad network of friends and colleagues
– Intermingled personal and work lives
– Needs information even when not at her desk
– Tends not to be patient

Basically, self-directed innovators want to get a job done. They don’t want to be busy, but productive. This is a great attitude, but it poses some problems for organizations. These are usually run from a central command structure and try to manage the landscape through processes. But this excactly frustrates this new class of worker: feeding an organizational hunger for reporting and compliance. Big organizations don’t seem to be a good place for self-directed innovators.

What would need to change? I think we need a shift along the axis of control & accountability. With the focus on processes, organizations tend to be high in control and low on accountability (you are responsible for compliance and business). If an organization could focus more on high accountability and low on control (responsible for outcomes and value), then it would really move towards a „network of brains“. Too often, initiative is tied to titles and stiffles the creativity and ownerhsip of employees beyond their own cubicle. Anyway, without being too much rock’n’roll here I think Google is on to something.

Filed under: career, energy, ,

The frustrated and the world-changers

I’ve often wondered about the attitudes in a company. The atmosphere that people work in can make a huge impact on the productivity and focus an organization has. Through a friend I came across some thoughts on “organizational energy”. It is a research program by Heike Bruch at St.Gallen, Switzerland which tries to answer the questions under what circumstances organizations are hot and under which not. For her, organizational energy “involves the vitality and perseverance of a company and it is expressed in the degree of temperament, intensity, speed, and stamina of its employees in performing their work.”

She proposes 4 energy zones for organizations along the matrix of quality and intensity. She says: “The quality of organizational energy distinguishes between positive energy (e.g., enthusiasm, joy, satisfaction) and negative energy (e.g., fear, frustration, sorrow). Intensity refers to the strength of organizational energy as seen in the level of activity, the amount of interaction, and the extent of alertness and emotional excitement. The intersection of intensity and quality determines an organization’s energy state, which usually falls into one of four categories: the comfort zone, the resignation zone, the corrosion zone, and the productive zone.”

organizational-energy.jpg

Along with the zones, organizations react in a way and get into “energy traps”. You get stuck in some quadrant, try to correct but drive the thing deeper into trouble.
organizational-traps.jpg

OK, the interesting part is how to move to the different zones. Here, Bruch describes 2 strategies, which are seen in business quiet a bit: slaying the dragon and winning the princess.
Slaying the dragon is about cranking up the fear factor. Whether unspecific (we face bankruptcy) or specific (kill your direct competitor), it turns up the intensity and gets people going.
organizational-strategies.jpg
Winning the princess is basically about vision crafting. Creating a powerful picture of the future and what that will feel like. It aims at getting people excited and engaged.
The point is that both of these strategies have to be specific, vivid and close enough for the people to get moving.

From their webpage it seems that the publication have been a bit quiet recently, but I hope they develop some more. The two strategies see a bit unspecific and general, but it seems like a good direction for me. Harvard has some more on it as well as others.

Filed under: energy, organization, psychology