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Have you signed away your democracy?

Std
by Driven Organization

The story of almost every country is colored by its search for democracy, a fight that wasn't cheap. It entailed paying a price of thousands of lives. Even today, some countries are still in the fight, and those of us who have it understand quite well their desire for a vote, for a voice, for having influence in the direction of the country, and for a system that is inclusive of everyone. We all believe that it is a normal right that every human being should have. No one in his or her right mind would give it away.

But have you done it? Have you given it away?

No, I am not talking about your country; I am talking about your job. I know what you are going to say, that it is different, that the company belongs to someone who can do whatever he wants, that you need a job to live, and that you are still free to quit whenever you want. All of it is true, but that still leaves a good 60% of your time, not counting sleeping of course, where you have little saying in what you do, how you do it, when you do it, and why you do it. When you consider all the time you need as, let's say preparation for work, such as eating, dressing, showering, and cleaning your house; the percentage of time you spend at work or determined by work often reaches 90%. Let me then ask you again. Have you signed away your right to democracy for the majority of your free time? 

What is democracy anyway and how could we think of it in the context of a business? Could it take place in a business, in a company? 

Dictionary.com defines “democracy” as: “A state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges.”

I want you to imagine an organization, that comes your way and tells you that they have a belief that education can be a lot better. They tell you that instead of teaching math, as an example, they want to engage children in little interesting projects such as building a bicycle or a firefighter ladder. In doing so, they may bump into a couple of math concepts. Through such little projects, the child learns all he needs to learn. It so happens that you've been unsatisfied throughout your life with the model of education that exists, and the idea clicks
 perfectly with you.

The managers of this organization have a conversation with you, and you both define what you should do in this organization, based on your skills and desires, and the needs of the organization. Once you are on board, they let you free because you don't need anybody watching over you; you are fully engaged with the project already. In fact, everyone of your new coworkers is as engaged as you are.

In this organization, workers choose when to come to work, and often work from their home. Workers decide which new ideas to pursue, and which projects to join. People often change jobs within the organization, which increases communication and fosters a great environment. Workers also have a saying on what tools they need and everyone is considered on the major decisions of the organization. 
Workers even help determine their salary, considering what the organization generates as income. Imagine how close and energized you and your coworkers are and how effective and capable this organization is.

The engagement of workers allows them to build an environment of creativity and possibility, of experimentation and challenge. You and your new organization will, for sure, improve education and have great impact on many people, which in turn will energize the organization even more. It'll be successful, no competitor will be close to it, and there will be enough money to pay a good salary to workers and to have well satisfied shareholders.

This is an imaginary example, but there are tangible successful examples of organizations operating this way. Instead of “democracy,” at DrivenOrganization.com, we call it “Autonomy” and we know that it is a significant factor differentiating a great job from a regular one. It is trusting the employee to do what is right, giving him the tools to do it, and letting him free to influence the organization. Obviously, this would only work for a worker who is engaged with the organization, if he believes on its objectives.

Tomorrow, when you go to work, when you sit behind your desk, look around. How much Autonomy do you and your coworkers have? How would the organization benefit by giving more autonomy to its workers? 
If you believe that it is possible to create such dream organization, come and share your thoughts with us at DrivenOrganization.com and help us learn from your experiences and ideas. 

Maybe, there is another fight for democracy that still needs to take place. Thankfully, this time, it will be driven by the market, and it will be completely peaceful.

Tags: engagement, Autonomy
Published on 10 Sep. 2012

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