Passion is at once one of the most influential, misunderstood and undervalued factors that determine business success. I believe strongly in passion for a host of reasons, including its connection to purpose and competitive advantage.
Passion is not addressed often enough in formal business, which is why I was delighted to read John Hagel’s latest think piece on the subject. His most important contribution is not describing what passion is, but the corporate passion paradox: Executives eloquently celebrate passion, though the day-to-day practices of the firm seek to contain and mute it. In fact, theÂ presence of passion diminishes among the workforce as the size of the firm increases. Scalable efficiency, which makes big companies competitive, has the result of alienating and prompting passionate people to leave. Hagel argues that because passion is becoming increasingly important for institutional success, institutions must shift from scalable efficiency to scalable peer-to-peer learning. Of course, the institutions that successfully attract passionate individuals will be the ones that thrive in a more challenging world.Â I recommend reading Hagel’s full argument.
This thinking reflects many observations and views I’ve written about over the years. While firms thatÂ successfully harness passionate individuals will achieve competitive advantage, I believe the quest for scalable efficiency is hardwired into the DNA of large organizations. It is like an addiction, becoming more engrained as the size of the organization grows. Therefore, small firms will become more advantaged, and the point at which scalable efficiency produces diminishing returns will become more apparent. On a personal level, Hagel’s argument clearly explains my own career path, where I dipped my toes into big-company life, a few times, yet always returned to passionate start-up life.
What is your company doing to harness passion?