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The Paradox of Management and How to Remedy It

Why you, unwittingly, may be just going through the motions

Necessity 50123277_s

Have we got it wrong?  

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” That is the old adage that we all grew up with. (The picture shows just how old!) And like me you have probably never challenged it. But is it valid? Recently I have been compelled to question this.

I was prompted to do so by reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi‘s 2002 book “Flow”, where I came across the statement, “External forces are important in determining which new ideas will be selected but cannot explain their production.” This immediately set alarm bells ringing in my mind. I suddenly saw that the link between necessity and invention was perhaps not as strong as we are led to believe and that it is entirely possible that new ways of doing things result from preconceived solutions that already exist, but just haven’t generated the awareness or traction yet. 


All this was naturally reinforced by the other ideas in the book; not least the idea that effective thinking is intrinsic rather than extrinsic. The implications, however, only really struck me when I came to the chapter about making work enjoyable. In particular the section where he writes about “the paradox of work.”

This paradox stems from his own research findings that enjoying their work and experiencing “flow” did not result in people being more motivated at work. Very briefly, this research found that people generally get more enjoyment from their work than they do from their leisure activities. Yet despite this, people keep wishing for more leisure. 

Csikszentmihalyi thus concludes that this “apathy” lies more in the worker’s relation to their job.

You and I may see this apathy as “lack of employee engagement” or “employee disengagement.” We recognize it as a problem. However, we may be missing its significance. In which case we may be barking up the wrong tree, and all our employee engagement efforts will be misguided, misdirected and likely to be futile.

This is certainly the case if Csikszentmihalyi is correct. He posits that “the time spent making someone else’s goals come true rather than our own is perceived as time subtracted from our own.” This is profound and goes right to the heart of employment itself and may well explain why employee engagement statistics have remained largely unchanged over the past few years, despite the efforts and resources invested in trying to improve it. It means that ultimately we are simply going through the motions.

If you want to change this and turn things around to fully engage employees and optimize their effectiveness you have to find a way of changing the employee’s relation to their work. This essentially means that you have to create an environment where your employee is not working to “make someone else’s goals come true.” The only way you can do that is to create an environment of shared goals, where your goals and the employee’s correspond. That is the necessity. You have to ‘make your business their business’ – there simply is no other way to resolve this fundamental problem.

The good news is that you don’t have to invent a solution. It already exists in the form of my ‘Every Individual Matters’ model. With its integrated employee ownership element it provides the ideal way of ensuring that ‘your business is their business.’ It really is only a matter of selection. 


Contact me today for a free 30 minute conversation about how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ model can help you create an organisational culture that embraces change and transforms – and sustains – organisational performance.


Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement.”




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