How do you make better decisions within the context and environments you find yourself in? How do we as a business empower our staff and their ability to make better decisions and improve our decentralised decision-making capability?
We are building a Swarm business model, and these questions are always rattling around my brain! I want to know how I can improve our staff’s ability to make better decisions, and I spent a lot of time thinking about this and researching it.
Part of the answer is about meritocracy and people’s innate ability to get on with the job. But I think it’s more about understanding what motivates people, as I believe our motivations inform decisions! This approach has allowed me to look at decision making through three understandings.
The Three Insights Into How We Make Swarm Decisions
The first is to understand a human being’s prime motivation:
The pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, where the latter is more potent than the former. We will make a decision to avoid pain over the pursuit of pleasure. We would rather reduce our risk of pain than pursue joy. This is why there’s such a strong motivation around reinforcing negative emotions. Guilt and fear are more powerful, motivating forces than love and hope.
The second is understanding external motivations:
I think it comes down to status and power. Status is about where you fit in the world and how you make yourself look better amongst your peers, social groups, and broader society. The second is about power and how you become more influential in the context of your position (whatever that position is). I think control is intertwined with power but different; I use the idea interchangeably.
The third is understanding internal motivations.
This is about finding value, personal meaning and growth, where you are excited and find the joy of expression in your daily work. This is unique to each person and why I think about meritocracy so much.
So, how do we translate this into real value in teraflow? How do we use these insights to build a decentralised decision making capability?
Practical Applications That Empower Better Decisions
Our primal pain and pleasure motivation is part of our internal motivation. You need to view these two elements together as they are symbiotic. While it can be empowering, external motivation is where corporate politics lives. We seek personal gain at one another’s expense.
Swarm, as an external structure, has the power to reduce the impact of politics while empowering our primal and internal motivations. Here are some practical applications.
Replace Massive Transformation Purpose with Daily Personal Value
We need to find what motivates us in a meaningful and valuable way, rather than outsource the meaning and adapt someone else purpose or mission. If what’s internally meaningful to you aligns with someone else, that’s a compelling mission. Still, in most cases, we don’t know what motivates us.
If our staff are motivated through meaning and value, they find profound significance in expressing what they do every day. They’re going to translate that value into our clients, into each other, through their mentorship, sharing, and exchange. What it also does is it leads to a more open, caring, compassionate culture.
This is the foundation of all our work. There is nothing more painful than a lack of purpose and meaning. Nothing is more lost than the lack of expression of personal value. It hurts to the core! While we are mission-driven, We Make AI Work, each person needs to find their unique value in the small moment of their daily work. It is far more potent than the MTP as it’s personal, an expression of free will.
While I love the idea of an MTP, they are external motivations and poorly defined in most cases. For example, solving the world’s energy problem to fix the climate is a noble and worthy goal that needs to be done. But very few businesses can authentically claim these kinds of purposes. And if not done authentically, they become counterproductive.
Minimising Positions of Power
We balance this by minimising position, transferring motivation from an external locus to an internal one, which reduces incentive born out of anxiety and pain from positional power.
The swarm structure is more of a network of cross-functional teams instead of a functional, divisional hierarchy. By default, this allows you to minimise positional power and to think of leadership in a very different way.
It allows us to find positions for our staff that enable them to then express their inherent potential and value instead of their status and power.
This gives you a framework of how we think about decision-making at Teraflow.