Commentary

Does Your Firm Harness Or Stifle Passion?

Passion is at once one of the most influential, misunderstood and undervalued factors that determine business success. I believe strongly in passion for a host of reasons, including its connection to purpose and competitive advantage. Passion is not addressed often enough in business, which is why I was delighted to read John Hagel's recent analysis of the subject. 

 

Hagel describes the corporate passion paradox: Executives eloquently celebrate passion, though the day-to-day practices of the firm seek to contain and mute it. In fact, the presence of passion diminishes among the workforce as the size of the firm increases. Scalable efficiency, which makes big companies competitive, has the result of alienating and prompting passionate people to leave. Hagel argues that because passion is becoming increasingly important for institutional success, institutions must shift from scalable efficiency to scalable peer-to-peer learning. 

Harnessing passion and scalable peer-to-peer learning requires organizations to recognize people who crave abstract problems, while seeking clarity and mastery. Organizations must value self-imposed discipline and persistence that overcomes obstacles. Organizations also must value people with self-imposed performance goals, and those who demand constant progression. Companies also must celebrate and empower passionate people to thrive as individuals and connect with other like-minded people -- either through outreach or attraction. To embrace passion, companies must embrace risk-taking, serendipity and authentic discovery. Finally, organizations must seek to align passions and professions. 

These are the traits of passionate organizations. They are more effective and, increasingly, more advantaged.

What is your company doing to harness passion?

6 comments about "Does Your Firm Harness Or Stifle Passion?".
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  1. Richard Monihan, February 26, 2010 at 9:53 a.m.

    EXCELLENT!

  2. Gary Klein from GKlein&associates, February 26, 2010 at 10:13 a.m.

    I have always believed that passion could be a differentiator in determining a businesses success or failure. Nice piece for a snowy Friday morning.

  3. Neha Khanna from Seiter & Miller, February 26, 2010 at 10:56 a.m.

    Completely agree. What's sad is that several (if not a majority of) companies forget that their success and sustainability depends upon the happiness of it's employees. For many, happiness stirs productivity which in the long run, harnesses passion. Those who understand this, go a long way.

  4. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., February 26, 2010 at 12:04 p.m.

    We have weekly passion parties where we get a bunch of Everclear and put it in a trash can mixed with Ginger Ale and Fruit Punch. We put Blondie on the stereo real loud and the rest just sort of becomes a blur. Oh, wait, that was college. Look - this is nice pablum, but let's face facts: really passionate people become the thorn in the side of most companies because they call bullshit when they see it. This is in direct opposition to most corporate policy which encourages endless meetings, lack or responsibility and any sort of result-driven decision-making. Video kiled the radio star, right? You want to know who killed passion in the corporate environment - the "well meaning" project manager. Those who are corporate drones will say "well, that's a bad attitude", those who REALLY have passion about what they're doing will know exactly what I'm talking about.

  5. Stephen Tompkins from Stephen Tompkins, February 26, 2010 at 2:54 p.m.

    Well said Max. As always your passion for passion translates to great insights.

  6. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, March 3, 2010 at 2:10 p.m.

    Among other things, this article points up the need for a good editor. For example, omit just one word from the headline and you could have: Does Your Firm Harness Stifle Passion?

    Worse yet, omit the same single word, and misspell another, and you could end up with: Does Your Firm Hardness Stifle Passion?

    Or, you could just go for a potentially less risky headline, eliminating the need altogether for an editor, good or otherwise.

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