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April 2012
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Autonomy. Mastery. Purpose

Autonomy. Mastery. Purpose.

Autonomy: The urge to direct our own lives. Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters. Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. … If you want engagement, self-direction is best. ”

This TED talk by Dan Pink is one of my favourites. It is one of my ‘go-tos’ to get motivated videos; The Surprising Science of Motivation. Or watch a slightly different version on   the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, Drive (also the title of Pink’s book).

Forget the traditional thinking, rewarding people for the work they do. The science, the facts, demonstrate this funky inverse relationship, the more you reward people the lower the performance in return. What?! You mean you’re not going to reward me for working hard?

No, that’s not what Pink is arguing.   Pink and the research he has done argue that you have to pay people fairly, ‘take money off the table.’ Ever heard of ROWE? Results Only Work Environment. Not being monitored for the hours you sit at your desk (you know those idle hours where you wonder what you’re going to do since you’ve read every headline, every magazine and every tweet you can imagine!), but instead being paid for the results you produce. Technology has changed everything, who needs to be in a desk all day to be effective. More importantly what a great way to kill creativity; force people to sit at a desk until they feel suffocated. Not sure ROWE is effective? Encarta vs Wikipedia. Managed, micromanaged vs created for free.

Autonomy: The urge to direct our own lives

We all want to be our own bosses these days. We want control. We want to do things when we want to do them. We do not want to be told when to arrive, when to go home, when to eat lunch. Technology makes that possible. Bureaucratic, conservative institutions make it impossible. Give a deadline, demand the results, expect the unexpected and allow a little flexibility and freedom.

But we all must remember we cannot be Chiefs all the time, sometimes we need to play the role of Indian.   It’s ok to work for, or even better with, someone. One can still maintain autonomy. Produce the results, work hard and you can be rewarded with a ‘flexible work schedule.’

Mastery: The desire to get better and better at something that matters

Something that matters. Matters to me? No, what matters to you. For self-direction and creativity it has to be important to you. It’s why there are so many people who practice a musical instruments. It’s why there has been a rise in masters level sports and intramural sports. It is your desire to be the best you can be at something you think is important… It’s why I ride my bike at 5:40am with a giant group of enthusiastic riders.

It is the birth of creativity. It is the desire for all of us to do something that is important to us. And do we need monetary reward? Not necessarily. Recognition is often enough.

Purpose: The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

Ok it would be pretty cool to be like a Steve Jobs, a Warren Buffet, a Bill Gates, but for the majority of the planet we will have to settle for something a little less. Although you can argue they did what they did in the service of us, in the service of something larger than themselves. And working for someone doesn’t mean you have to be unhappy. Ski Coaching brings me some of the greatest rewards in life; being out on the slopes with the under-11 athletes, watching the engage, learn, ski better, ski faster. There is no where else I would rather be on a wintery weekend morning than on the snow.   I am part of the growth and development of the young ones; something larger than myself.

What brings me purpose and fulfillment in life may not be for you. You may find purpose in developing policies that protect the citizens around you or in building something that makes ones life easier or in developing something to bring enjoyment to others. What drives each and everyone of us to be part of something larger than ourselves is completely individual.

Can we compare to 3 Pillars of sustainability, People, Plant, Profit to Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose?

My sustainable brain light bulb turned on after watching these videos again. How does Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose relate to People, Planet and Profits?

People: It is easy enough to see that most people want a life of fulfillment, they want some form of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.   To do something larger than yourself? Protecting the planet for future generations is definitely outside the scope of oneself.

Planet: Protect the planet. Do it more efficiently. Do it with fewer resources. Do something that leaves a smaller footprint. I can see how purpose ties in here. And mastery, the idea of being able to do what we have done before with a smaller impact. You will need several masters to tackle this art!

Profit: Efficiency. People want autonomy, people want to be paid fairly, people want self-satisfaction from their jobs. Pay the right person for the result you are trying to achieve. Hire someone for their skills (mastery), because they are passionate about what they do (purpose) and let them achieve that result, whatever path they chose to follow (autonomy). You would be surprised at the efficiencies. It might mean less office space, less wasted time, a different product (good or service) that meets your goal or objective.

Lululemon prints their manifesto on the bags they sell their products in. It is a collection of slogans, sayings and words that Lululemon believes in. “Creativity is maximized when you’re living in the moment.” To live each moment to it’s maximum potential one needs a life of autonomy, mastery and purpose.