The Motivation of Autonomy

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It’s time to dig a little deeper on some of the core foundations of motivation. Daniel Pink, in his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, highlights three core components of motivation; autonomy, mastery and purpose. Today, let’s unpack the first one: AUTONOMY.

At the heart of autonomy is the ability for people to have more choice in how they work and what they are working on. Often, managers feel the need to have everything under tight control and all staff working in a neatly predictable and efficient way.

The assumption is made that, if staff are given more freedom, then they will naturally “slack off” and decrease in output. However, there is considerable research which shows that some autonomy actually increases innovation, job satisfaction and output quality.

Workplace Autonomy is Not:

  • people just doing their own thing in their way and forgetting about everyone else.
  • team members telling team leaders what the plan is.
  • staff members working on projects for their own benefit at the expense of the company.

Workplace Autonomy is:

  • letting go of the control reigns and allowing people to be creative and pursue their areas of interest that can somehow add value to the company.
  • freeing up some time for staff to work on these areas.
  • allowing people to work out how they work best.
  • getting feedback on their individual projects and looking at how they can be implemented.
  • allowing people to group together naturally to work on these projects.
  • seeing that there is so much innovative potential there today in your staff and that everyone will benefit from its release.

Many large companies are implementing these concepts with great success.

If you’re interested in this:

  • let your team have 10-15% of their time in which they can work on anything that has benefit to improving existing services / products / structures or being creative and innovative.
  • ask them to share with the larger team what they have been working on and how it can benefit the company.
  • let them form groups of people who are passionate about the same project.

I admit it can be a bit scary to start on this journey, but why not introduce a trial period and then evaluate?

How much autonomy do you have in your workplace?

1                   2                    3                     4                       5

none                       a moderate amount                     considerable

How much autonomy do you give your team members?

1                   2                     3                       4                      5

none                       a moderate amount                      considerable

Steve Bagi

Who is Steve Bagi?

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