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Management isn’t natural.

I don’t mean that it’s weird or toxic – just that it doesn’t emanate from nature. “Management” isn’t a tree or a river. It’s a telegraph or a transistor radio. Somebody invented it. And over time, most inventions – from the candle to the cotton gin to the compact disc – lose their usefulness.

Management is great if you want people to comply – to do specific things a certain way. But it stinks if you want people to engage – to think big or give the world something it didn’t know it was missing. For creative, complex, conceptual challenges – i.e, what most of us now do for a living—40 years of research in behavioral science and human motivation says that self-direction works better.

And that requires autonomy. Lots of it.

If we want engagement, and the mediocrity-busting results it produces, we have to make sure people have autonomy over the four most important aspects of their work:

  • Task – What they do
  • Time – When they do it
  • Technique – How they do it
  • Team – Whom they do it with.

After a decade of truly spectacular underachievement, what we need now is less management and more freedom – fewer individual automatons and more autonomous individuals.


from Seth Godin’s new free ebook: What Matters Now

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