When we sit down and talk with those people who love what they do they might talk about the impact they have at their job and the impact that job has on external events creating a ripple effect to a greater purpose. Perhaps the jobs that people enjoy create a purpose driven environment. Maybe, these places allow people to grow outside their job descriptions. There definitely seems to be a key ingredient to an enjoyable job, but what is it? What differentiates between a conversation with someone who loves their job and someone who’s final words about their job are “it’s a paycheck”?
First let us take a sigh of relief. Clearly there are existing facilitating conditions motivating happy, devoted, passionate employees. And happy workers are a wonderful thing, lets be honest here when is the last time you have heard of a company of cheerful, spirited workers go out of business?
A good researcher isolates variables and analyzes reoccurring trends. In doing so, it seems evident that there are certain common patterns that successful workplaces share. One being a movement towards seeking and maintaining an autonomous work environment. Autonomy has been a rising force, an unprecedented strategy that has positioned itself at the forefront of motivation and success.
Atlassian, a software company started in 2002, test-ran the idea of having an entire day’s worth of an employees work be on whatever he or she wanted. It did not even have to be part of their regular job. They would then pitch the idea the next day, many working through the night on their exciting, self-directed projects. These days became known as ‘FedEx’ days, the idea being that people would have to deliver something over night. This practice was so successful, giving birth to some of Atlassian’s best ideas, that they now have ‘FedEx’ days once a quarter.
What about our friends over at Google. They are encouraged to spend one day a week on side projects. One day a week! That is an enormous investment of time by Google. But this ‘2o percent time’ has lead to the development of entirely new features such as Google News, Gmail, Google Talk, and Google Sky just to name a few.
Meddius, a software and hardware company implemented a novel management strategy called a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE). This radical plan allows employees to show up to work whenever they want, creating conditions for people to do their best work. The idea of no schedules might warrant an incredulous gasp, but ROWE’s success is clearly evident as the corporate giant Best Buy has adopted this mindset.
Georgetown University Hospital allows their nurses to conduct their own research projects changing and improving hospital programs and policies. Zappos.com does not require its customer service employees to use scripts, instead allowing the reps to handle the calls the way they see best.
Autonomy has woven itself into the success of countless companies. When you have the freedom to invent it allows you to look through your own creative lens instead of following the directed track of the companies conditions and intentions. You would not tell an artist how to paint a picture, you would merely give her a brush step back. View your company as the unique paint brush in which you can create.
What a speaker, what a speech! The truth of the matter is that the creativity, imagination, and innovation that people, companies, and consultants try so hard to find lies in the capable hands of the little boy at the local park maneuvering a giant cruise liner across the infinite vastness of the open ocean.
We live in a world of idealists. The acknowledgment has been made that perceptions are merely a point of view and that two people can look at the same exact thing and have vastly different perceptions of it. We’re smart people and realize that what is going on in someone else’s head is different from our own thoughts and knowledge. Knowledge being what we continuously use to generate countless perceptions on a moment by moment basis, thoughts translating into a meaningful output of the processed information. Awareness of this creates the distinction ‘between things in the world and things in the mind’. ”Perceptions are portraits, not photographs, and their form reveals the artist’s hand every bit as much as it reflects the things portrayed”, says cognitive psychologist Daniel Gilbert. As much as we are aware of the infinity of perspective, it is natural for us to sometimes loose sight of the fact that the way we see things from our point of view is not necessarily the outlook others may have or even know exists.
A particular story comes to mind, where I had a first hand encounter with making the assumption that the knowledge in my head was a common understanding that everyone firmly grasped. It was a casual night of conversation, laughs, and a couple of beers with friends and family. Somehow, someone, probably me, came up with the idea of doing a cherry bomb shot. A couple of my sisters friends and my curious father were on board. We gave a quick ‘how to’ explaining how you drop your shot into the glass and then consume your flavor-altered beverage. We filled up four tall glasses with red bull and four shot glasses with cherry vodka and on the count of three me and my sister’s two friends dropped our shots into the tall glass of red bull and drank. In the midst of gulping down a flavorful combination of cherry, red bull, and regret, I glanced over at my confused father to see him pouring his shot of vodka into his red bull glass. Now it never even occurred to me that when I said drop the shot in the glass that it could be perceived as taking the liquid from the shot glass and dropping it into the liquid in the tall glass. But then again my father is not one who typically goes out to bars orders drop shots and flavored shooters. We can, at times, make the presumption that everyone is ‘on the same page’. And even when we do try and give ‘how to’ explanations, we can indadvertedly use descriptions consisting of terms and ideas that may not currently be in that persons repertoire. In order to see the difference of perspective we can take advantage of the common platitudes of being in ‘the other persons shoes’ or ‘seeing things through their eyes’.
Realizing that the way you see things and the way I see things are different is a great ability. Stepping out of your current way of thinking, removing all predispositions, assumptions, and perceptions, is a pathway to growth. An interesting study placed two adults on opposite sides of a cubby. The mover sat on the side of the cubby shown below. The director sat on the opposite side and instructed to the mover where to move which objects in the cubby. The catch, as you can see, is that some cubbies have a piece of wood blocking the directors view. So when the director says move the small truck left one, the mover has the choice of moving the medium truck, which from the directors viewpoint is the smallest truck, or he or she could move the actual small truck without regard that the director could not see it as the mover could. Now as I said before we are pretty smart people. So we take into account that what I, as the mover, is seeing and what you, as the director, is seeing are different. The study found that most of the movers, when asked to move the small truck, moved the medium truck accounting for the fact that the director cannot see the smallest truck from his or her point of view.
One catch. Taking advantage of the sophistication of science, researchers used eye tracking equipment to see where the mover was looking. When the director asked to move ‘the small truck’, the movers eyes initially peered at the smallest truck. For a single, initial moment the brain was a realist and interpreted the small truck as a reference to the smallest truck from his or her point of view. What this tells us is that even wise, idealists have a split automatic moment of a subjective experience being a common reality to everyone. It is only after further consideration that we consider the possibility that the “real world may not actually be as it appears to us”.
Viewpoints are plentiful and encountered every day. Every time you turn on the tv, have a conversation, or even walk out the door you are seeing life from some frame of reference. What remains important is being aware of these ‘small trucks’. Things aren’t always what they seem, and the way one person looks at something can be completely revolutionary compared to the way you or I or the next person sees it. And so it can be summed up with that cliche expression of putting yourself in the other persons shoes. For the mover it was seeing the cubby from the other (directors) side. For us it is seeing the situation not just as subjective to you, but as subjective to all. In order to step inside someone else’s shoes you must first step outside your own. Only then can you begin to see the portraits that others have painted and not just your own.