The World Bank once conducted a study of 70,000 poor people around the world. One of the questions asked of respondents was this: “What is your most pressing need?” The answer was not social services or homes or other material things. What these people wanted most was the freedom and wherewithal to be entrepreneurs. This was not surprising to me. People I have met—regardless of class, income, nationality, and education level—want a chance to make the most of their abilities to meet the needs of their families while doing something useful for society.
Joy at work starts with individual initiative and individual control. Individuals, not a bureaucracy, make the decisions and hold themselves accountable. The process is bottom up, but it is not a loosey-goosey, anything-goes affair. It involves creativity, careful analysis, meticulous planning, and disciplined execution (see chapter 4 on the advice process). The goal is to design a workplace where the maximum number of individuals have an opportunity to make important decisions, undertake actions of importance to the success of the organization, and assume responsibility for the results.
Why is it fun and rewarding to play in a game or work in an organization in which you are given a measure of control and responsibility? The answer lies in the nature of human beings. We are uniquely created with the ability to reason and to develop talents and skills; we are able to apply these gifts when making decisions; and we feel it is natural and appropriate to be held accountable for the actions we take. When all of these factors come into play at the same time, we feel something approaching pure joy.