The Challenge

Our society has a paradigm that we humans are naturally lazy and that if we are not directed and controlled little would get done.  This perception is evident in our education system where some central body determines what subjects are to be learnt and then our diligence/compliance is monitored through the exam/qualification process. The outcome is a society that is predominately compliant.  These society-wide perceptions that are assimilated in our early years stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Sigmoid curve diagram

Cartoon of man tied in chairHow we, as a society, think determines the methods we use.  So when it comes to how our organisations are structured we find an abundance of techniques to binds us to the requirement to comply to hierarchically determined directions. Examples include performance management schemes, targets, appraisals, job specifications, regulations, standards, auditing, inspection, bonus systems, qualifications etc.  While this approach (as represented by the blue line above)was successful in the 20th century, its style of management has now passed its “sell-by date”.  Organisations and society are now so complex and competitive we need to utilise every ounce of our intelligence.

Man on skateboardThat intelligence is readily available in our basic desire to do a good job.  Research over the past decades has shown that we are far from lazy.  We are intrinsically motivated.  We want to be valued.  We want to be valued within ourselves.  We can identify with the vision of an organisation. We are naturally innovative; furthermore we have the capacity to appreciate complex interdependencies.  There has been extensive research not only in context of our intrinsic motivation but also how it can be developed and utilised within our organisations.  There are many examples of companies structured to enable this intrinsic motivation.  They provide scope for our willingness to take responsibility and to be innovative.  They even allow us to make mistakes – and learn from these mistakes.  They create an environment of dynamic progress.  As a result these organisations have made significant strides forward (as represented by the red line) and invariably find themselves as world leaders in their particular sector.  If society, as a whole, can fully develop and enable this intrinsic motivation, then we are surely going to create a dynamic positive force for the future.

Paradigms: We are flooded with information every minute of the day.  Paradigms help us cope by filtering out any information that does not agree with our present thinking.  It allows through only that information that is in sympathy with our existing mental model.  It reverses the old adage of “seeing is believing” – to “we see what we believe.”  While paradigms help us cope, they have a downside in that they block new thinking.  They filter out information that conflicts with our existing mental models.  This feature is referred to as “Paradigm Paralysis.”  The implication is that it takes a conscious effort to break through the management paradigm of ourselves, our organisations and society as a whole.

The American Richard Pascale believes that society will find the change from controlling people to enabling their intrinsic motivation will be “as radical as the metamorphosis from a caterpillar to a butterfly.”