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Friday, April 09, 2010

Employee Traits Hierarchy for the Creative Economy

by Hutch Carpenter

In his keynote for the 2009 Spigit Customer Summit, management guru Gary Hamel discussed the Creative Economy. What is the Creative Economy? Combining descriptions from this BusinessWeek article and Gary's keynote, here is a simple way of conceptualizing it:
  • Industrial Economy was based on physical capital
  • Information Economy was based on information
  • Creative Economy is based on ideas

Ideas around business models, products, improving existing processes. These define the basis of competition in the future. In a way, these economic cycles reflect Maslow's Hierarchy. As our society gets better at solving our basic physiological and safety needs, we see the economy tracking to higher order human needs.

In considering the Creative Economy, Gary put forth his own hierarchy of employee traits that will define the winners in the future. His representation of this hierarchy is below:

Employee Traits Hierarchy for the Creative Economy
The chart above depicts six traits that any of us can recognize in ourselves and others. Notice the line separating the bottom three traits from the top three. That's the separation of winners from everyone else in the Creative Economy.

The Line of Commoditization

As Gary observed, the bottom three traits are those that defined success in the Industrial and Information Economies. The Industrial Economy required the mass scaling of production and distribution. This required the design of systems for scale, and the ability to plug workers in to execute their specialized tasks. The Industrial Economy has been incredibly successful and beneficial to humanity.

The Information Economy has brought us new advancements, as workers have applied their intellect to solving problems with data. Information is used to uncover patterns, reduce the costs of production and consumption and find new solutions to vexing issues. The Information Economy continues to evolve and drive forward societal advancement.

The traits that defined success in these eras include obedience, diligence and intellect. All are valuable, and represent the expectations of modern work. That third element - intellect - is what a lot of us go to college and grad school to demonstrate.

As Gary Hamel sees it, though, these traits are becoming commoditized. Not that every individual has an abundance of these traits; but with a generation of expectations and a global workforce, they are easier to secure than ever. Note IBM's 2008 study found that corporations are conducting "global searches for sources of expertise".

These traits are valuable, they're indispensable... but they no longer represent a competitive advantage.

What Determines Leadership in the Creative Economy

Employees with these traits are best positioned to help their companies - and themselves - in the Creative Economy:

Initiative: Seeing opportunities to try something new, and actually following up on them. This is a marked contrast to the obedience trait.

Creativity: Designing something different than what exists currently, be it business, product or process. Contrast creativity with intellect. Creativity is less bound to the rigors of logic and proof, more responsive to our individual yearning for things that are new.

Passion: Our internal engines provide the fuel that spurs us to action. We pursue something because it answers an internal calling. Contrast this with diligence, which is the application of one's mind and efforts to a task or project. Diligence is a more mechanical effort, passion is an emotional one.

These are the traits that fuel advances in an economy based on ideas. And as Gary Hamel notes, they cannot be commanded. They are intrinsically persona. But when they are given full bloom in employees, they are the basis for competitive advantage in the Creative Economy.

The Creative Economy Traits are Advanced Enterprise 2.0

Gary Hamel gave some great examples of companies that are innovating in terms of management to encourage these traits in their employees. W.L. Gore is one such example. It has made the list of Best Places to work for the past 25 years. The Great Place to Work organization noted these four aspects of W.L. Gore's culture:

"People experience tremendous freedom at Gore: the freedom to talk with whomever they need or want to, the freedom to make comments and provide input, the freedom to bring who they are to work, and the freedom to make commitments."

Enterprise 2.0 ethos includes the traits of greater information visibility, tapping the emergent knowledge of employees and increased collaboration. Those characteristics are the fertile ground for growth in the Creative Economy.

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Hutch CarpenterHutch Carpenter is the Vice President of Product at Spigit. Spigit integrates social collaboration tools into a SaaS enterprise idea management platform used by global Fortune 2000 firms to drive innovation.

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Anonymous Vincent Carbone said...

Nice article Hutch. I will with working with Gary on an client project. This is helpful.

Vincent Carbone

4:54 AM  

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