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Joe, a great post, highlighting how far behind on my reading I am! And thanks for the reference to Beyond the Edge. We are still working on finding the right location.

As to this line: "Rather than individuals serving the needs of institutions, our institutions will be crafted to serve the needs of individuals," I am wondering how that fits the need of institutions to have a larger social purpose or value beyond the individuals who make it up? Seems like this line opens the door to great things people hold within that may be quite selfless, but just as effectively opens the door to what we have today. Not having read the book I'm sensitive to taking things out of context. What do you think the authors actually mean and where do you stand on that?

Joe McCarthy

Dan: thanks for the comment, and for drawing me out a bit further on the topic of individual and institutional social purpose. I think you would like the book, as it emphasizes the importance of developing trust relationships - on an individual and institutional level - and promotes moving out of one's comfort zones, concepts you cultivate in your blog, workshops and coaching.

The short answer to your question is that I don't recall any emphasis on a larger social purpose, but as usual, your question prompted me to go back and review and reflect on on the issue.

The Power of Pull promotes an ecosystem perspective, or what the authors call shaping strategies, in which institutions are encouraged "to invest in ways that amplify the investments of all participants involved, including the shapers themselves." Several examples are provided in the book, which are also covered in earlier, shorter articles by the authors:

The book also distinguishes between that individuals who adopt a Machiavellian approach of "what's-in-it-for-me" from those who create value without attachment; the latter, more selflessly motivated individuals, are practicing the power of pull.

All that said, I don't recall any examples of not-for-profit institutions, or any particular emphasis on individual or institutional social purpose (beyond promoting the development of individual passions, and providing platforms that benefit all participants).

In that regard, the book reminds me of some of the ideas I wrote about after reading James Ogilvy's book, Living Without a Goal: Mattering Without Being Useful:

Ogilvy writes "when you try to identify the use of your entire life, you are asking to be used." ... He rejects the single-minded life-long pursuit of an overarching Goal, through which we sacrifice our freedom, while embracing the opportunistic adoption of smaller-scale goals that we may adopt as we artfully create ourselves in real-time.

I'm still not completely convinced of - or fully willing to embrace - Ogilvy's prescriptions. But, like The Power of Pull, the ideas are interesting and provocative.

Pedro Alves

Great post! I've also been thinking about this lately - the shift where innovation starts spontaneously and unpredictably in the edges and not from the core, and where what counts are the individuals, not the company they work in.

As Dan, I also wonder what will be the role of the traditional enterprise when it's solely composed of "selflessly motivated individuals". I guess it will resume to idealistic purposes such as setting a grand vision or supporting a common culture and values.

Joe McCarthy

Pedro: thanks for your comment. I'm glad you raised the issue of a grand vision, because I do agree that is an important factor in channeling passion and promoting selflessness.

One of the best expressions of this idea I heard was by Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin, who gave a talk on "Building a Great Company in 10 Easy Steps" at NWEN Entrepreneur University 2005. In describing Step 3, Assemble a Team, he suggested the following strategy:

Find the maniacs, and give 'em a reason to believe

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