Spam: Staff with Purpose Autonomy Mastery

Dan Pink presented a well documented talk on how Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery (as opposed to financial incentives) drive us to engage and enjoy activities that require cognitive thinking. Pink’s talk is a business centric view of research by academic psychologist Carol Dweck. Dweck’s book, Mindset, discusses motivation, personality and social development in the context of education, sport and relationships. Specifically Dweck developed the theory that people have either ‘fixed’ or ‘growth’ mindsets in the way they view their intelligence and ability. Those with fixed mindsets believe that the die has been cast in terms of their ability and so they view challenges negatively because a challenge might expose a gap they are unable to fill. On the other hand, those with a growth mindset enjoy challenges where there is a real risk of failure and relish the opportunities for improvement which setbacks provide.

Dan Pink’s ethos is definitely one which we aspire to at SalesSeek, but how does this relate to Carol Dweck’s theory? How do we go about instilling this in a company, and why is it so incredibly important? It’s all very well to simply draw the conclusion that large financial incentives to employees are not an effective way to motivate, but are there other advantages for business, even more important to consider?

The main benefit of this way of thinking is that it forms a general framework for strong company leadership. Let’s first consider Purpose. Is your organisation producing something that solves a legitimate problem for its consumers, and is it doing so in a socially responsible way? If Purpose is important to motivate high-skilled individuals in completing tasks requiring cognitive skill, then it must be embedded in the company culture from the beginning. To galvanise a team, each member must appreciate their role and responsibility in achieving the greater purpose. When you align this with a company that also has a clear reason for being in business, it stimulates strong motivation.

Motivation of people and their commitment is more important to business achievement
than access to capital. People who have a growth mindset will perform at a level higher than expected and with the right environment will be self-motivated to work harder, will achieve more and will feel more fulfilled. We believe that, in the long run, this improvement in performance is more beneficial than a larger or more highly-experienced workforce that could be bought with large amounts of venture capital.

Autonomy is somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy as it assumes driven and responsible employees, however to attract such people there must be autonomy offered to begin with. This also closely relates to Carol Dweck’s theory regarding challenges and the difference individuals in a fixed or growth mindset. Those who believe in their ability to develop should be able to work more autonomously and overcome setbacks on the road to competency. Those existing in a fixed mindset however, do not wish to be measured objectively, as they do not feel they have the ability to adapt in response to criticism. They feel criticism as a personal attack because they see less opportunity to develop themselves.

Finally turning to Mastery, this is an individuals key driver for achievement because they become master in a given domain which gives them personal satisfaction in their skills or expertise. A startup business is an ongoing process of learning so you need a growth mindset individual to take on this challenge. As can be seen in the slide by Tom Hulme at IDEO below, to move from the point of informed pessimism to informed optimism (Mastery) requires stages of iterative learning of the your business process. The mindset of the individuals confronted with with the stage of informed pessimism, and their ability to respond appropriately, will greatly affect the ability to reach informed optimism.

IDEO workshop for Techstars from Tom Hulme

So how do the three factors of Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery come together in the context of business? By allowing staff to be autonomous and supporting opportunities for them to achieve mastery, we are able to attract and develop the skills of those with a growth mindset. By allowing individuals to grow personally and in parallel with the company, you are able to form a more cohesive organisation that is optimally geared towards its purpose.

Image: Creative Commons 2.0