Great Ideas: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose

I’m back from ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference and have a lot of thoughts swirling around my head about what to include in a recap for you. Here’s a few quick links of the obvious stuff.

  • Check out the full Twitter transcript in chronological order. I wanted to do a “#ideas10 in 140 characters” post pulling out my fave tweets over the last few days, but it got overwhelming and impossible – but skimming though this will give you a GREAT sense of what it was all about.  If the direct link doesn’t work after a while, go to What The Hashtag and search for #ideas10, then click “read the transcript” (dates were 3/7 – 3/10).
  • Guy Kawasaki’s keynote on The Art of Innovation rocked the house.  And you can watch the whole thing at your leisure!  But if you don’t have time (even though trust me it’s well worth it), here’s Lynn Morton’s 2-minute rundown.
  • Acronym, of course, has a whole bunch of posts from the conference for you to peruse.
  • A few of us tried to record some stuff using Qik or Ustream but, while fun at the time, I have to say this didn’t work very well compared to using a good old Flip – mostly because it didn’t pick up sound adequately.  But maybe Todd Carpenter or Sterling Raphael will post links here if they taped anything worth sharing.
  • Here’s the Flickr Pool complete with incriminating pictures.
  • Here are four awesome Bisnow recaps.
  • Dan Pink’s talk [UPDATED link to full video] was also inspiring, and having had the luxury of reading Drive on the plane, I want to talk a bit more about what he said.

I’ve posted this video excerpt before, but it’s worth reposting to set the scene.

Two questions that can change your life from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.

The bulk of Dan’s keynote had to do with his take on the three elements of what motivates people: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

I’ll let you read the book to really get the details of these elements, but this little video speaks to the purpose piece, and that was a recurring theme in the conference, most notably with Kawasaki’s idea about “making mantra” – 2 or 3 words to define what we are about.  I saw a whole bunch of tweets throughout the three days from people thinking about what their association’s mantra might be (or what their individual “sentence” – per Pink – could be).


The mastery element, in my opinion, is something associations know very well how to encourage and promote – everything we do is about improving and developing the particular skills of a profession or practice.


But the piece (the “great idea” for me) that has really stuck in my mind is the idea of developing  autonomy. I don’t think this is something associations do at all well (if you think of it as being the antithesis of “we have always done it that way” or “best practices” or “not reinventing the wheel”)  but there’s no reason they shouldn’t.  I feel like everything Kawasaki talked about in his opening keynote, about entrepreneurship and innovation, came back to me very specifically when listening to Dan Pink talk about autonomy.  The obvious example of this in practice is Google’s 20% time (employees are allowed to spend 20% of their time on personal projects, which led to Google News and Gmail, among other big ideas).   Pink had other examples, and they all involved giving staff free time to come up with their own ways of doing things and then reincorporating the best of those ideas back into “official” work.


I made a note of my favorite quote from Pink’s book. I was hoping to quote this during my Truth and Authenticity session but I didn’t get a chance to…

Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.

Holy awesome, Batman.

Think about it.  Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement. I think we have mastery down (as a  process baked in to how we operate, anyway, I’m not saying we already know everything about everything we need to know). If we can define our clarity of purpose, through having a mantra or a sentence or however we want to do that, and then add the missing piece of allowing autonomy in the ways we let our stakeholders achieve that mantra, maybe then we’ll achieve the engagement we’re all craving.

Sounds like a great idea to me!