Collaboration provides autonomy

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —February 15, 2010
Filed in Collaboration

Last week I started a new Making Strategies Stick project with a large IT company. The guys I’m working with are the technical sales folk and as we were working out their strategic story they mentioned that the passion that was once there for their products seemed to be waning among some of their technical specialists.

These guys work closely with the sales people. The way they work together, however, varies dramatically from being merely instructed by the sales people to do demonstrations of the product (they call this being demo dollies) to working collaboratively as peers with the sales people.

I asked whether those who showed a lack of passion were also the ones treated as demo dollies. Th answer was yes.

Dan Pink has done a good job in his latest book, Drive, to show that there are three important factors that affect our motivation: purpose, mastery and autonomy. It seems that in this case those treated as demo dollies were losing their autonomy (and also unable to apply their mastery) and were losing the spark for the product. Collaboration (where collaboration is when peers work together to tackle complex activities–see our paper), on the other hand, provided all three factors.

Another good reason to get serious about collaboration in your business.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. Jo Jordan says:

    PS the Pink model is a standard one found in Hackman and Oldham (mid 70’s), German action theory (Hacker), Ryan and Deci. Also used by Jane Mcgonigal (see current TED). Every qualified psychologist should have this off pat and be able to apply it.
    But good point. We are over managed. Our basic idea of ‘using’ other people has to change.

  2. Hi Jo, it’s good to know the heritage of these ideas. The thing I find, however, is that many managers have little idea about these things and therefore don’t but two and two together. Dan’s book helps somewhat but the other problem is that most managers don’t read management books.

  3. Sahana says:

    I follow your blog regularly. I am a firm believer in storytelling as a means of “making sense of the chaos” and a collaboration evangelist. This post and your earlier ones have helped me to understand a lot of my personal reactions to situations. Thank you for that. I have responded to this in my blog.
    In Response to Collaboration Provides Autonomy

  4. Lori says:

    Hello Shawn,
    I am a doctoral student who is working on a dissertation studying the perceptions of online college faculty on collaboration. I am currently searching for a validated survey instrument that can be used or modified for the purposes of my study. Are you familiar with any instruments developed and validated for measuring perceptions of collaboration?

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