Aug 18, 2010

3 of the 6 fundamental shifts in the way we work

I have highlighted issues around Innovation, Talent and Passion that  John Hagel and John Seely Brown blog about the 6 fundamental shifts in the Way We Work in HBR Blogs
The collaboration curve supplants the experience curve. We may, for the first time, have an opportunity to turn diminishing returns performance improvement into increasing returns.
As it becomes increasingly possible to scale the number of connections and interactions between participants in a given environment, however, a new kind of performance curve is emerging: the collaboration curve. This is characterized by increasing returns: the more participants — and interactions between those participants — you add to a carefully designed and nurtured environment, the more the rate of performance improvement accelerates.

The collaboration curve helps explain the rise of network-centric efforts ranging from open source software development to "crowdsourcing" to "creation spaces." In nearly all of these group efforts, rapid leaps in performance improvement arise as participants get better faster by working with others. The evidence for the collaboration curve is still admittedly fragmentary, but one place to look for it is in the online game World of Warcraft.

In part, the paradox arises because executives tend to focus on talent acquisition and retention, but do not invest much time on talent development throughout the firm. When they think about talent development, they spend time designing training programs rather than re-thinking the work environment to accelerate talent development. If they took on-the-job talent development seriously, they would reassess all aspects of the firm - strategy, operations, organization and information technology platforms - to find ways to foster even more rapid talent development.

Passion is everything. Management can only do so much. All of us are responsible at a personal level, too — for reintegrating our passion into our profession. What is passion? More than simple satisfaction, passion is when people discover the work that motivates them to achieve their potential by seeking extreme performance improvement. Their job becomes more than a mode of income.

Yet our survey in the 2009 Shift Index showed that passion levels are low across all US industries. In most of them there are fewer than 20 percent of employees that say they are passionate about their work--and no industries have more than 25% that say so. Furthermore, passion levels are inversely related to the size of the employer: the larger the company, the lower the passion levels.

Why is passion so important? Because it drives a questing disposition that is essential to employee performance as they react to the inevitable unexpected challenges today's work environment presents. It also drives more connection. Our Shift Index found that passionate workers participate much more actively in knowledge flows that are the new key to value creation. If you can help make your employees more passionate, you can create value in today's economy.