Passion as the basic capability


I copied the above picture from a slide on a presentation given by Gary Hamel in a webinar as part of the Management Innovation Exchange (you need to register to access it; it will be available for a limited time). The hour-long presentation touches on so many subjects and is defiantly worth the time of anyone who leads or manages people, but this particular slide really sparked my interest.

Trying to create some equivalent to Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, Hamel created what he calls Gary Hamel’s Hierarchy of Capabilities. These, according to Hamel are the thing people can bring to their work place. The bottom three is what we used to rely on and what most companies rely on every day. However, the three things at the top (Passion, Creativity, Initiative) are the capabilities that create wealth in this new creative economy. The problem is that these capabilities at the top cannot be commanded. These are things that people choose to bring to work every day or they don’t. Thus, Hamel claims that our job as managers is to create work environments that create a sense of purpose, that motivate and cultivate an atmosphere where employees can bring these things to work every day.

I can’t agree more. In a very simple way, Hamel touches on what, in my view, is the heart of managing. Helping people find their flow. In addition, it also reminded me of an important point about passion.

A lot of people have a problem with the issue of passion. They claim that “Follow you passion” is advice that makes a great story, but in the real world, you can’t really make a living out of your passion. Yes, some do, but they are the lucky ones. You need to be careful with the idea of passion, because it could lead you on a fool’s errand. Mike Rowe makes this claim in his TED talk.

I have written about it before and it is an important lesson that I need to remind myself of:

After I thought about it I realized that I don’t agree with Rowe. I think “follow your passion” is a very good advice. But I think our disagreement lies in the interpretation we give to the phrase “follow your passion”. While – I think – Rowe interprets “Follow your passion” as “do something you love”, I interpret “Follow your passion” as do whatever you do with passion. In the E-book I describe how in my view, being passionate means three main things: Being interested in what you do, striving for change and improvement and sharing your knowledge.

Now, I don’t know that pig farmer from Las-Vegas [Rowe motions him as an example in his talk], but I am pretty sure, that the moment he went into this industry, he followed some or all three of these rules. This doesn’t mean he loves the pig industry and sees higher calling in it. It just means that he does what he does with passion. And this leads to him being successful.

One thing troubles me in Hamel’s explanation as I think he did not take it far enough. In contrast to Maslow’s theory, Hamel’s is not really a hierarchy. The point is, in today’s creative economy, we need to flip the list and start with passion. Creativity, Initiative, intellect, diligence, and yes, even obedience, emanate from passion, and not the other way around. At least the sustainable true kinds do.

So, where are you and your employees on this hierarchy? How are you going to change that and utilize the power of passion?



4 Responses to “Passion as the basic capability”

  1. Tweets that mention Passion as the basic capability « The Comparative Advantage -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by MIX, Elad Sherf. Elad Sherf said: New Blog Post: Passion as the basic capability […]

  2. To fail forward « The Comparative Advantage Says:

    […] an atmosphere that promotes failing forward. Many business today depend on their people’s passion, creativity and initiative. By implementing, as Stibel says, the opposite discipline, there is slim chance of tapping into […]

  3. Carla Betalleluz Says:

    Hi Elad, very interesting post. I agree with passion as the basic capability which in my view applies for all aspects in life.

    In the workplace, the challenge would be how to motivate passion in employees, specially the ones in charge of simple tasks. Some points I can think of:

    Share your passion. Just show how passion looks like and what it can accomplish. Stories of passionate people that maybe lacked other capabilities.

    Show the big picture. Given shared passion for the company’s mission, help realize how does each individual task is necessary to reach the final goal.

    Really listen and bring feedback onboard. Sometimes managers make a great effort to open communication channels and they do receive great ideas. But then these ideas are not shaped or looked after for implementation. Decreased rather than increased motivation and passion.

  4. sherfelad Says:

    Thanks Carla,
    As always, your comments are insightful.
    I hope to see you commenting here on the website more often!


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