What businesses can learn from terrorists

A terrorist cell acts autonomously, with little communication. It acts according to a strong intrinsically motivated belief system, with a clearly defined objective – terror and disruption. It matters not how the objective is achieved, only that the objective is achieved. Knowledge is shared and innovation encouraged.

What has this got to do with business? Am I proposing businesses build bombs – no (besides many have found far more effective ways of being socially destructive). However I am suggesting that in the future businesses operating as a network, will prove to be far more effective than those which are centrally organised and managed, especially if they can address the intrinsic motivation issue.

Intrinsic motivation
By this I mean that you should seek to understand the motivations and human passions of your network (read employees, if still old thinking), not that you should seek to make your business goals an intrinsic motivation. This is about alignment not supplication.

If people are working, governed by intrinsic motivations (AKA passions, beliefs), then they will care about their work and strive to produce the best they can. They will not just be in it for the money.

Clear objectives
Clear objectives that allow for interpretation as to how an action is carried out, but a definition of what a successful outcome looks like, will ensure that the network is free to operate and be flexible in it’s methods, provided that the objective is carried out in a satisfactory manner.

Easily transferable knowledge
Sharing tools and technologies for efficiently achieving objectives, ensures that any network member can adapt to take up the role or position in absence of another member (resilient network). Such behavior runs counter to usual business culture, where the desire is to be indispensable. With the right incentives, in my opinion everybody should work to make themselves dispensable.

Autonomy
The above contribute to generate autonomous behavior, intrinsic drivers ensure that the job gets done however it needs to be, easily transferable knowledge ensures that people have the know how needed to do it, and clear objectives ensure they know what has to be done.

This makes the lives of people trying to counter this behavior very difficult especially since they are fighting a network with an organisation.

Results only work environment has taken some steps towards these principles, although intrinsic drivers are probably more based on “I want to spend more time with my family” rather than “this business is aligned with my moral principles”, but a step in the right direction none the less.

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