Hacking HR to Build an Adaptability Advantage

A series of on-line conversations on hacking HR to create an adaptability advantage

Session 2:  It’s the People, People: A conversation with Dan Pink and Polly LaBarre on 21st Century People Practices

What makes people tick at work—and how do we radically rethink our people practices to make work (and organizations) work better?

The “modern” organization was invented over a century ago to solve for very different challenges than we face today—to maximize standardization, specialization, predictability, and control. Today, when the challenge is to become more resilient, more inventive, and more inspiring, we’re still trapped in that factory mentality.

How do we fundamentally rethink what makes people tick—and retool our organizations to help them flourish? How do we re-make our management processes to go with the grain of human nature? How do we unleash human potential and amplify human capability? In other words, how do we make our organizations more human in order to make them more adaptable? And, finally, how do we make ourselves more resilient and agile?

These are the themes Dan Pink has been exploring with great insight for years. He’ll bring his signature clever and contrarian thinking to this hangout to unpack what makes people tick at work—and how to re-design and align management practices to unleash their best gifts; offer up bold new ideas for hacking HR; and share new thinking on how we make ourselves more agile and resilient.

More about Dan

Daniel H. Pink is the author of five provocative books about the changing world of work — including the New York Times bestsellers, A Whole New Mind and Drive, which together have been translated into 34 languages.

His latest is To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, which offers a fresh look at the art and science of sales—and what it takes to influence and move others. To Sell is Human is a #1 New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post bestseller.

Dan’s other books include: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need, and Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself.

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greg-stevenson's picture

Dan, I'm interested in the concept of taking money off the table and have been working on a system design which I think incorporates the concept. I'd like to know your opinion of a design element that guarantees payment for a regular task, one that has potential real benefit to an organisation, is voluntary, and the performer of the task remains anonymous. Whilst the task must be completed for payment to occur, the quality of the task can be as good or poor as the performer feels so inclined. This element is part of a larger system designed to address multiple issues including the measurement of culture change. Can you comment on such a system with respect to taking money off the table and providing an opportunity for creative input?

morag-mcgill's picture

Dan, Polly, as part of making organisations more adaptable ie "human" I'd appreciate your thoughts on ways to break down/side step organisational "silos" which hinder exchange. 90% of the people I see in organisations would LOVE to be able to do a "Freaky Friday" (or month or so) with another department to see how things work over there, see who uses their services and how, meet with stakeholders etc. Short of schemes for new managers however (who are sometimes fortunate enough to "do the rounds" of Co.departments before being assigned to a role) most managers would have trouble either "changing places" for a while or arranging internal "exchange schemes" for their people. How can HR facilitate that? Thanks. Morag McGill

katharina-schmidt's picture

Hi Dan & Polly, what are your thoughts on labor contracts (in Europe) and their (paralyzing) effect on individual ownership/entrepreneurship? Can they be abolished for knowledge and production workers? What are te differences in individual ownership that u see between US and Europe?

debby-lloyd's picture

Dan, Polly - A "real live" scenario for you.

What would your advice be to the CEO of a mid sized global technology organisation (lets say 3,000 employees) - having acquired and bolted on a bunch of smaller organisations over the last few years, running a common cross border matrix management structure that appears to keep people busy - but is actually inefficient causing much role double dipping and unproductive in-empire building. Meanwhile major revenue milestones are being missed and unpacking clarity and accountability is no easy task as so often things get lost in translation.

What steps would you take and FAST to re-gear for the future in the face of relentless disruption in your industry ... oh .. and in the face of a halved share price in the last 6 months.

claudine-weston's picture

Dan, Polly,
I’ve read with great interest your thoughts and ideas in ‘Drive –the surprising truth about what motivates us’ and recently attended a taster session run by the CIPD in London.
I really believe creating an environment which encourages ‘autonomy, mastery and purpose’ will positively impact an organisations ability to adapt and remain flexible – an engaged culture where collaboration is key and new ideas are encouraged, challenged and developed.
How would you see this working in a highly regulated, risk averse organisation where there feels to be a conflict between standard operating procedures and strict guidelines on how tasks are performed, and encouraging an autonomous and creative environment? Can you provide any examples of how this has successfully been addressed?
Many thanks

caterina-sanders's picture

Hi guys,

I'd love your thoughts on the org structures you've observed that foster most successfully autonomy, mastery and purpose among all their members? Our company is flat today and I believe we've got a strong culture that promotes great internal motivation but how do we preserve that as we grow to medium-sized and beyond?


edna-pasher's picture

Dan - any advice on enhancing a culture of INTRAPRENEURSHIP in organizations?
I find this to be very challenging in my work.
By definition - people, who choose to be employed by others, hate risk or they would have started their own organizations...

tommy-vandepitte's picture

I would like to submit the following question: how can a(n HR) manager rhyme (a) loosening the control over staff (through BYOD, broad internet access, etc.) whilst (b) otherwise avoiding data misuse or data leakage e.g. in a banking environment or in a CIA environment (think about the recent PRISM commotion)?
One position (that of Gartner Maverick Group) is to install massive measurement / controls on the staff's actions: how they use internet, social media, email, dropbox, etc. But then what about the privacy of my staff?
What would your position be?

debbie-morris's picture

I'm seeing such a great need for cross-boundary collaboration. But hierarchy is not going away. What are you seeing about how to mesh the gears of collaboration with the reality of hierarchy?

tsukasa-makino's picture

Hi, Dan and Polly, Greetings from Japan!

My question is about the success factors for innovation.

As clarified in your book “Drive”, various scientific experiments proved that monetary rewards do more harm than good in innovative works. Also, it says “Masterly”, “Purpose” and “Autonomy” are the key factors for innovation.

I perceive that Japanese people are less likely to be driven by money.
Japanese people pursuit “Mastery”, as you can see in the quality of our industrial products or the accuracy of train schedule, etc.
They like to work for the “Purpose” of their organization or society rather than for their own benefit.

However, they don’t look as innovative as those people in Silicon Valley.

What lacking, I think, is “Autonomy”. Japanese people tend to prefer to obey orders, rules and afraid to be stand out.
Is the lack of “Autonomy” so fatal that it offsets other three advantageous factors? Do you have any idea how to foster autonomy in Japanese cultural environment?

Thank you!

david-john-gay's picture

Hello Dan and Polly - 2 questions - assuming that most organisations are sub optimal (in that they do not live in the right hand tail of a normal distribution or bell curve) and some are still led by those who are happy with relatively low levels of engagement and performance - because their environment tolerates sub optimal performance --- how can their performance be enhanced when the people who got us to where we are - are still in place?
Q2 - What advice do you have for local authority (public sector) organisations in the UK who still epitomise twentieth century ideals of rigid controls and bureaucracy and who, in the future will have to do a lot more .. with a lot less?

pam-kennett_1's picture

Dan, How can organisations enable more meaning in the lives of their employees?
What's the one strongest argument to convince sceptical managers that money is not all that matters when motivating staff?

keith-gulliver's picture

Hi Polly / Dan - one of the principles of adaptability we have identified during the CIPD/Mix Hackathon is diversity. When thinking about 'what makes people tick at work' how should we consider and apply this principle?


claire-mccartney's picture

Hi Dan,
How can organisations create a shared sense of purpose from bottom to top in a way that resonates with all?

jeff-fuller's picture

Hi Dan,

I work in the government environment where money can't be changed without taking an exam, passing and being appointed. With some individuals in production environments, I've read in Drive that the carrot and stick approach would work, to some degree. Could you expand on this?

raphael-sagalyn's picture

how do i participate? there are no instructions now that I'm registered

stephanie-sharma's picture

Thank you Polly, Dan and MiX.

What is the most important factor for the future that will allow for creativity that leads to innovation in organizations?

This is acknowledging that many things contribute to a creative work environment and that there are relationships between innovation and goals of our future organizations: adaptability, agility, leadership talent & readiness and organic growth.

tracie-charles's picture

how do we sell the concept to managers about the benfits of having an agile workforce where staff resources are moved to areas of need. Its a real challenge to sell the idea that we are ONE organisation and its a benfit to the orgainsation as a whole

silvia-colombo's picture

Hi Polly and Dan,

How to overcome the well-established, hierarchy-sustained practice to "give orders" to people, and instead to be able to involve them, motivate them, and move their behaviors towards common goals?
It's so much easier to tell someone what to do ...



alka-puri's picture

How do we bring the 'human' part of us that comes so naturally outside work, into work?


karen-mctaggart's picture

If I were to prioritise the questions I would like to see answered today they are Tsukasa's, so different for someone who has always lived and worked in the UK, if I were to add one from a Scottish perspective, the big issue here just now is the independence referendum in 2014, any thoughts of the potential impact on adaptability in the UK environment?

david-bell_1's picture

How can we achieve large scale change at pace?

heidi-de-wolf's picture

Just noted the timing of the Hangout which says Eastern Time? Please can this be clarified?

michael-shell_1's picture


This is very interesting point and a great question. Japan is unique in unique ways, as they say! I wonder, if they really prefer to obey rules, or is that is simply the way they have been acculturated (through school, family and work)?

Do you have any examples of Japanese organizations where being acknowledged and standing out was part of the culture?

tsukasa-makino's picture

Thank you for your comment!
My personal view is that it’s mostly because of the education system from elementary school to high-school, which reflects the desire of companies and the society to be obedient and disciplined.
One of the famous exceptional cases is SONY, where the founder, Mr. Akio Morita said “You shouldn’t act and think like others if you want to develop yourself”.
Also, as I posted in MIX, Tokio Marine Nichido Systems could be regarded as a company which values autonomy.

corliss's picture

How are we going to get out of the mentality that tries to govern everyone the same (e.g., performance reviews once a year focused on development when instant feedback is more valuable)? Is it feasible to have some autonomy and an environment that encourages innovation, participation and maybe even ownership?

megan-tebay's picture

autonomy, mastery and purpose: working with a local governement authority is challenging to break free from traditional org structures and practices, however even here with signficant financial challenges, the requirement for integration and collaboration has been recognised as a requirement for effeciency for the industry. The purpose is now being recognised as essential, and mastery is also being recognised as key, however the concept of autonomy is mistrusted - how can we make a very traditionally structured industry like Local Govenment (Aust. embrace the necessity of autonomny?

david-physick's picture

Having just read Drive while on holiday, I am delighted to see the recognition that how people feel working for an organisation is so hugely critical to their performance and that of the organisation. This blows fresh life into the concept of organisational climate conceived at the same time as culture, e.g. Ekvall, Burke and Litwin. The two themes were inter-reliant and inter-dependent. Culture relates to how things are done, so is task focused. Climate concerns how people feel to work in their organisation, so it is people focused. We have, mistakenly in my view, concentrated on culture for the past 25 years, so have processised and systematised far too much. The human element has been squashed flat. People are told what to do rather than their ideas sought and discussed. Performance Management is an expensive bureaucracy that no one wants to participate in. We have lost the art of conversing with each other in a grown up and candid manner. There is a lovely story from a major hotel group that established a fresh set of values, one of which was about everyone looking smart and immaculate in appearance. When a Regional Director turned up at a hotel with his top button undone and tie not set correctly the lady on reception asked if she could make an observation and said how disappointed she was about his dress. The RD, thankfully, accepted this feedback fully, apologised, and later when he got back to his office wrote to the Receptionist to say thank-you and how much he admired her for saying what she had. That's a healthy climate emanating from a strong culture.

ulrich-nettesheim's picture


If autonomy, mastery and purpose are the three most important elements of what motivates most human beings. What else is on Dan's short-list of key human motivators - say the next three most important ones, based on all the research done for Drive (e.g. relatedness - Deci/Ryan, etc.). I ask because I am on the hunt to define the complete set of Motivation 3.0 with Daniel's work as a great start. Thanks! Ulrich

julian-wilson's picture

"Once we are paid enough.... what really motivates us at work is autonomy, mastery and purpose."

In your presentation, the ideas of autonomy and mastery are very personal and individual qualities, yet when you talk of purpose you quickly express this in terms of the purpose of the organisation or its leader.

Can you really follow anothers purpose and be equally motivated?

I don't feel autonomy if I only experience it at the level of the organisation as a whole and I'm just a cog in the machine; I don't feel masterful when the organisation is the master and I am the servant; yet you seem to imply I can feel purposeful by following the purpose of the organisation or its leader.

Are you really suggesting I can delegate that? Or is it simply as good as it gets for an employee?

I suggest "purpose" is just as deeply personal and individual quality- unique to us and an important part of how we reflect upon ourselves, but this has implications for the traditional "command-and-control", "conform-and-comply" employment model.
Your findings seem to support Maslows idea of "self-actualisation" and argue in favour of heterodoxy; quite a subversive message.

diana-renner's picture

I'm interested in your thoughts on how we can move from workplaces that reward competence, knowledge and certainty (and hence create dependency and fear of failure) to creating workplaces that reward leading with questions rather than answers, and tolerating (even valuing) not-knowing?

david-physick's picture

Julian, you ask some very important questions that I hope Dan picks up and responds to. I wonder how many individuals do have purpose in their lives. Does our education system squeeze it out to them in terms of its prescriptive format, learn by rote, get your exams, get a job and consume "stuff". Are most people "cogs in the machine", even those in relatively high positions working 24/7 to deliver their contribution to the next uptick in quarterly earnings. The imposed orthodoxy forces people down the Maslow pyramid rather than up it. Will social networks increase the scale and impact of a new heterodoxy as with Arab spring and events in Brazil. Indeed, conversations like this are still relatively new but will over time become the norm and a dynamic that can't be ignored by business or society.

david-physick's picture

Diana, is our present hiatus caused by the banking collapse of five years ago due to being overly tolerant of not knowing? I support your premise of establishing organisational climate that foster inquisitiveness, exploration, trial and error, but must we not also guard against the downside of people being too accepting and not ensuring they understand what is being asked of them. As ever, it is about behavioural balance. Susan Cain's book about Introversion throws up many interesting thoughts about stimulation and response and how extroverts have potentially coped better with pell mell pace of life in last quarter century. If only we had at least slowed a little to provide the space in work situations to allow the considered thoughts of the introverts to be heard, considered and acted upon. Perhaps we wouldn't be in the mess we are today? On that issue of pace, if I recall my Physics studies from school four decades ago, speed is all about pace but velocity is about pace and direction; we've been captivated by speed rather than velocity. We've been driving a US "muscle car" from the sixties, which went fast in a straight line but cornered less ably than a modern four-door hatch-back. Twisting this metaphor further, this addiction to speed reminds me of Aesop's fable about the tortoise and the hare - the hare never wins!

julian-wilson's picture

"I wonder how many individuals do have purpose in their lives."
More than you might imagine- but far fewer if you ask just about purpose in their work. But even then there are a good few- not just sportsmen and musicians but also many in more regular roles.
Lets imagine for a moment that is a natural and normal expression of our humanity that we pursue our individual purpose. The question is simply where modern society "clips our wings"? Is it inherent to modern society or is it just bad organisational habit? Like the poor design of an enclosure in a zoo,- sure it houses the animal but does not allow it to express its normal range of behaviours. Autonomy, mastery and purpose... normal range of behaviours for a human? So why aren't our organisation designed to accommodate them? it is possible.

"Does our education system squeeze it out to them?"
Yes, its another institution given up to "process" rather than purpose. There are lots of people who have loads of stuff about this- from Ken Robinson to John Taylor Gatto.

"The imposed orthodoxy forces people down the Maslow pyramid rather than up it."
Nice observation.

"Will social networks increase the scale and impact of a new heterodoxy? "
No, just like the "Occupy" movement- high on protest and short on solution. Identifying, piloting and testing alternatives- just like the hippy movement of the 60's tried their communes- a new heterodoxy must be brewed in the cauldron of practice out there in the real world.

The hippies were sincere but it didn't really work for them- the communes failed. But that does not mean change is hopeless, its just some ideas may be good but they can also be "not quite good enough"- practice tests against reality and its a harsh judge.

There are some interesting start-ups out there and interesting models being employed - like LINUX for example. They are not so freaky- just different.

Its not about business or society ignoring them- the ones that work will simply out-compete the orthodoxy- just like Henry Ford did when he integrated the vertical supply chain (not the production line- that actually was not so successful as the wages he had to pay doubled).

There is an interesting book called The Starfish and the Spider that looks at the different anatomy of organisations that are "distributed systems"- and could accommodate the individuals expressing their autonomy mastery and purpose.

Ken Robinson: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms.html
The Starfish and the Spider: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wc1ZFTnSSVM

Long one- and a little conspiratorial- but worth listening to the educational practice he pursued in his career.
John Taylor Gatto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=YQiW_l848t8

david-physick's picture

Julian, great comments. May I continue the discussion? I am writing this on my phone so excuse typos and failure to emulate you and quote precisely from your note.
Purpose in life or in work - I agree that some have this but far too few. How do we, that is those of us who have found holistic purpose, lead and help others to acquire "P +A + M"? Leadership is everything. Not shallow rhetoric but actions such that cognitive dissonance is brewed that prompts people to want to follow suit.

Is this where creating "example" environments in Second Life could provide the means to give people the experience of such behavioural led climates and then bring into the physical world the confidence to try and do what they've learnt "works"?

Good to see you reference Ken R and JTG. While Ken is running strong (isn't Ken's TED talk one of the most watched ever?) I must admit to losing track of John. I do some of my work in education and am so concerned about what I see. From the UK I wish there was more Ken and John and far less Michael (Gove).

I hope the social networks do change the order of things far more so than the hippies and the Occupy movement. These movements were apart from society whereas the web is so central. Would we have "met" otherwise? Perhaps Bernard Shaw was right about progress and being unreasonable. The web provides the means to be constructively unreasonable. The melee in the UK about our health service suggests strongly that "whistle-blowing" is needed and provides the necessary stimulus for change to be initiated.

Thank-you for various references, which I will look at when I have a decent sized screen to read!

julian-wilson's picture

Of course you can continue the discussion, exploration is the purpose here. We can both be wrong you know- its ok.

"Leadership is everything."

There is a paradox here. In nurturing autonomy and purpose leadership is counter productive. How do we intervene without leading?

The following may sound really bad... but I took my cue from zoo enclosures. Sure I dress it up with environmental psychology chat- but the truth is the idea came to me when thinking about zoos.

For animals kept in zoos to express their natural behaviours then the environment must be carefully designed to allow them to do so- and as far as possible the "keeper" should not interact with the animals. Its not about the keeper - their influence can only be negative.

So I started to think about how "work" was arranged in our organisation.
Rather than leading a team with a new approach I felt it was better to build a functional work environment and just leave people to get on with whatever they wanted to do. There was no real need to train people or get buy-in (I actually avoided enrolling people into the plan), all that was needed was to provide a way to make a good living and an operating system that did away with management, hierarchy and separate functions. An environment that treated everyone as individuals but measured each. One that had adequate checks-and-measures to make sure people stuck to the law and best practice.

I'm not saying this is how I did it- it just sums it up. I actually had very few things I could change at the beginning, but bit by bit I stripped away a traditional system and added self directed systems in its place. First self direction for the immediate and obvious and then later for the obscure and abstract. For example- first for purchasing materials then later for choosing suitable suppliers.

This feeling of not being able to change anything is something that many people will be familiar with I'm sure. And at the beginning of such a journey it is true that there are very few options open to you. On a real journey you can step backwards or forwards, left or right- but that's it.
When I started changing our works there was pretty much only one thing I could change- but doing it gave me another and further option. Bit by bit you steer the environment.

I've made a good few mistakes along the way- and it has taken a long time (ten years).

As people who work in the environment grew their capabilities and capacities then more independence and responsibility could be introduced.

After a certain point the "culture" does much of the heavy lifting- for example newly employed people quickly adapt to the environment and copy the behaviours of the established ones. Their growth is phenomenally fast compared to those who transitioned from the old world. Alternatively experienced people learn to spot those who try to "game the system" and quickly put corrective pressure on these individuals to change their ways.

Personally I've learned many lessons that contradicted my view of people along the way. For example I believed that given the opportunity for autonomy, mastery and purpose in a well paid job...most people would embrace such a prospect.
In reality, most people would prefer the familiar comfort of command-and-control; and this is where I'd agree with you that education has a lot to do with it. I don't think this is a natural state of being- I thing we are educated into this.

Many (most) people offer themselves to the job market as willing servants. Every time you hear someone complain about the lack of jobs "out there" this confirms the idea that most people need to be presented with a job- it totally ignores the huge number of small businesses out there that are started by people who make "jobs" for themselves- they look for needs they can satisfy. Even applying for a job is an act of self determination- the only difference being that you are offering yourself for another's purpose.

I'm not sure this can be done in a virtual environment- however I don't know that for sure and perhaps you are much better placed to make that judgement than me.

As for those who are willing- actually eager -to be more responsible and automatous .... again it is a mistake to believe they are competent at such a thing from day one. These people find traditional command-and-control businesses terribly claustrophobic and tend to be eager to break out of the confines. Yet most small businesses fail- and for good reason- its such a steep learning curve for the owner.

If you want to have an organisation manned by these independent types- you are going to have to find them as well as offer training in the basics of business practice. Its not a matter of the skills being already there in your workforce and just latent.

One of the primary lessons in organisations of the future must be to make people capable of finding and satisfying work of their own. Everyone in our organisation wants to start a business of their own one day- but this will be only when they have amassed the skills in their present role (from dry business practice to effective recruitment). This is natural and to be encouraged.

And all see their new business as a stepping stone to further businesses- its not a single choice to be made once. The key to our continuing success is that they want to stay associated with the development of a system that makes not just one future possible- but any future possible.

Every day that passes in their present job their choices widen rather than their skills specializing and their choices narrowing.

Finally I want to introduce a single concept- that of "human agency". The power to be the "cause in the matter". This is the more abstract notion of A,M and P. It provides an enormous personal reward to express your agency- a reward that directly benefits your self confidence and self esteem.

Nurturing this agency is what future work must do, and insofar as education prepares the child to contribute to society then it is their individual agency that education must also aim to nurture.

So what holds us back from doing it? There is always one question... who stands to loose in nurturing the agency of individuals? Are they deliberately holding us back?

I think there is a strong corrective group bias towards the status-quo- but I don't think there is some grand conspiracy constraining our agency.

If you want change- employ your agency and get it going. Don't be anti status quo- be pro your alternative and show it can work- there is no downside- except you may be wrong. Is that so bad?

heidi-de-wolf's picture

Diana, Just wanted to say what a great question! Heidi ;)

heidi-de-wolf's picture

David, Being too accepting (AKA blindly complying) is a symptom of learned dependency on command-and-control systems. If the bank had a culture of asking high quality questions don't you think that may have prevented some of the chaos. Employees would not be following blindly but questioning the reputation and integrity of the person giving out the 'orders'.

Please see my earlier contribution on non-compliance (http://www.mixhackathon.org/hackathon/contribution/non-compliance-proble...)

heidi-de-wolf's picture

Julian, I really like your zoo analogy. I too use a similar example. A few years ago in Scandinavia, they removed all the traffic signage and road markings to see what would happen. The results were that all road users became more personally accountable for their actions and the speed of traffic drastically reduced. How do we get people to act counter-intuitively?

julian-wilson's picture

Heidi, sometimes non-compliance is not necessarily a constructive position.

I understand that innovation by definition is a form of non compliance and is therefor essential- but innovation implies an effort to move to a new paradigm- but non-compliance can refer to a simply destructive effort.
To be clear- innovation requires lots of effort- but non compliance can be simply a matter of it being "easier" than compliance.

...Its easier not to attach the harness when you are climbing- but is it really innovation?

I think of this in terms of "motion away" or "motion towards"- if non compliance means escaping the constraints of the status quo then you may also "escape" its benefits too, on the other hand if its motion towards then non compliance can mean replacing an antiquated system with a well crafted and better alternative.

heidi-de-wolf's picture

Julian, Another great analogy, you are the master! My intention was to show that compliance is as much a position of feedback as non-compliance is. Managers often take more notice of non-compliance than they do of the 'why's' within the concept of compliance.

I know it's semantics but I prefer to substitute the word 'compliance' with 'ownership'.

julian-wilson's picture

I really like your example of the innovative road safety campaigns in Europe and the UK by removing road markings.

It makes a really counter intuitive point.

Somehow when the rules are removed there is no chaos- somehow people assume MORE responsibility.

I feel that the inevitable conclusion is that many people either delegate their responsibility to the external rules (which only work most of the time) OR they become more righteous in the pursuit of their interest as they are following the rules.

You know, as a motorcyclist I know that just because the light is green does not guarantee my safety- I always look to see that everyone has stopped on their red before I move into their path.

There is something important about allowing people to take responsibility- but in the traffic case you also have to design junctions such that the users have the opportunity to manage themselves (clear view of other traffic). Its no good putting the cycleway behind a wall until it crosses the highway.

That's just poor environment design.
So it is with work. Careful design FOR the people who populate it.

julian-wilson's picture

I totally agree Heidi, ownership is definitely going in the wrong direction.

People don't own others- yet somehow "human resource" to me implies ownership.
People apply their agency only voluntarily- it cannot be forced. Perhaps in the short term- but ultimately it is damaging.

julian-wilson's picture

" My intention was to show that compliance is as much a position of feedback as non-compliance is. Managers often take more notice of non-compliance than they do of the 'why's' within the concept of compliance."

I really want to be sure I understand your point.
Is this like the normalcy bias? Or confirmation bias.

Managers ignore what is familiar and only respond to the abnormal- or even punish it.
"That's beyond your pay grade- don't ask questions- just get on with your job".

There is a Chinese proverb that says "if a nail sticks up- hammer it down". That sounds like it resonates with your point. Non-compliance gets a lot of negative attention.

I think there are different flavours of non compliance. Innovation and design, exploration- frontiersman- ship always requires non compliance you are right- but aren't they special flavours of non compliance? I'd like to define the flavour- I bet there is a word that sums it up.

Heidi, have you seen this presentation? NASA guy on the "normalisation of deviance" , its about how non compliance can build to disaster because risk builds without immediate disaster- until all the non-compliance catches up with you.


peter-mcdonald's picture

Dan and Polly
Welcome you views on the following.
HR has moved from Employee Satisfaction (ES) to Employee Engagement (EE).
Is it now time to secure (EB) - Employee Belonging. We need to now look at what makes a member of the team want to belong in an organization.

heidi-de-wolf's picture

First and foremost a match in values and beliefs! From a personal perspective, the size of the organisation/team will be an important factor as large structures deskill the workforce by creating specialist silos.

julian-wilson's picture

Peter- Um... autonomy, mastery and purpose.

A lack of employee belonging simply reflects the dysfunction of a business environment. Its normal and natural for humans to belong.
The question is not- how you get it, but rather what you are doing to loose it.

The same is true of team building- humans are social animals- if an organisation has to promote it then they have a toxic environment on their hands.

I think you miss the point Peter- every time you intervene to promote some behaviour that should be natural for people you are perpetuating a broken environment and paradoxically hastening its demise- every intervention increases costs and decreases efficiency.

The answer is the other way- in Heidi's example of roads signs- the answer is to remove the signs - not keep trying to add better ones.

heidi-de-wolf's picture

'The question is not how you get it, but rather what you are doing to loose it.' *LIKE*

julian-wilson's picture

Peter- I don't mean to be rude. I wish I'd worded that a little more diplomatically-

they say diplomacy is an art... and I was never very good at art!
Sorry for any offense.

david-physick's picture

Precisely right, Heidi. If only such questioning was encouraged and when posed were considered carefully, responded to honestly and appropriate action taken. Many years ago, working in a major UK retail bank, the Chief Marketing Officer of the business unit of which I lead the operations side came to talk to my team in Liverpool. This was the 1990s when there remained a multi-generational schism between management and workers so there was always scepticism when a "big-wig" came to talk. However, nothing tended to be said, just moans afterwards. On this occasion the CMO spoke about new automated credit scoring techniques that would allow the bank to pre-mark lending limits against customers. If a customer asked to borrow £5k and their limit was £10k, the customer should be "up-sold" to. One team-leader, a lady of about 50 remarked in her strong Liverpudlian accent, "Now, I am not an educated lady. I am by no means as clever as your good-self. I am confused and need your help, please. Two weeks ago we were told about the bank being a "responsible lender". We'd only lend what the customer could afford and needed. What you're now describing to me and asking me to get my team to do is to throw vast sums more money at customers that they don't want and, if they're like me would be afraid to borrow so much. However, that said, there is some merit in the initiative. For instance, one of my team was talking to a customer about borrowing to put a conservatory on their house. The system approved the deal. The customer was blind selected for inclusion in testing this new development. My team-member in their normal chatty way asked the customer if they had chosen the furniture for the conservatory because she had been surprised at how expensive it was when she had done what the customer was doing. Mine cost a thousand quid remarked the team member. What would you say if I told you I could add this amount to your loan, extend the term by a few months, reduce the interest rate and tell you the monthly payments would only be £10 more. The customer said yes, please." The CMO to his credit thanked the lady for her comment and asked for a moment to consider what she had said. The room was quiet, expecting a bit of a back-lash from this senior manager. They couldn't have been more wrong. He said, "You're right. We in risk and marketing have got this wrong. While we can program the computer to make these assessments they take no real account of what the customer is doing with the money. What you're telling me is very real and should be guiding us in making the best and most responsible use of this new system capability. We shouldn't be sitting two hundred miles away thinking we know best. We should be involving you in these developments from day 1". And such collaboration became the feature of the business. Sadly, way up the hierarchy in London, such open, constructive challenge didn't occur and too many people acceded that they understood the maths, and that what looked good on paper would pan out in reality. Unfortunately, it was all too good to be true. There is a marvellous scene in the Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons movie Margin Call. I paraphrase the following interchange: Irons chairing a meeting points to a participant and asks who he is and what he does. I'm a physicist he says. What are you doing here? Irons asks. It's just maths with different numbers and equations replies the "quant".