The story in summary, told at more length in the Unlock the passion of the Explorer report, is that:
* Technological change is creating ever-increasing pressures and challenges for institutions and individuals;
* In this world the rationale for large organizations to exist is no longer scalable efficiency, but scalable learning;
* The Center for the Edge looked to find examples of “sustained, extreme performance improvement” that reflects this scalable learning;
* What they found in common was deep passion, but a particular type of passion that they dubbed the passion of the “Explorer”
The passion of the Explorer has three attributes:
• Commitment to Domain — Long-term commitment can be understood as a desire to have a lasting and increasing impact on a particular domain (industry sector or function) and a desire to participate in the domain for the foreseeable future. Commitment to Domain helps individuals focus on where they can make the most impact. Having domain context enables an individual to learn much faster, allowing for cumulative learning. This commitment, however, does not imply isolation or tunnel vision. Quite the opposite: these individuals are constantly seeking lessons and innovative practices from adjacent and new domains that have the potential for impact within their chosen domain.
• Questing — The Questing disposition drives workers to go above and beyond their core responsibilities. Workers with the Questing disposition constantly probe, test, and push boundaries to identify new opportunities and learn new skills. Resourceful and imaginative, they try to identify novel ways of using the tools and resources available to them to improve their performance. These workers actively seek challenges that might help them achieve the next level of performance and explore the undiscovered. If they cannot find these challenges, individuals with a Questing disposition get frustrated by the pace of learning and move to another environment (team or organization) that does offer these opportunities.
• Connecting — The Connecting disposition leads individuals to seek out and interact with others to share interests. Although workers may intuitively understand that an effective way to advance is to connect with and learn from others, workers with a Connecting disposition often seek deep interactions with others in related domains to attain insight that they can bring back into their own domain. Workers driven by the Connecting disposition build connections, not to grow their own professional networks, but to seek out experts and continue to learn and develop no matter how knowledgeable they already are.
Many of the people I know and admire the most absolutely match these attributes.
The Center for the Edge’s study showed that 11% of American employees are Explorers. As John noted, this is actually an encouraging result given the nature of corporate employment.
For institutions, the question is of course how to attract, develop, and retain more passionate explorers.
However passionate explorers, who have the attributes described above, are increasingly likely to choose a path of entrepreneurship. This opportunity is increasingly available to those who have the requisite passion.
Clearly there are today quite a few institutions that have been able to attract passionate explorers, by giving them leeway, resources, possibilities, and the network around them to achieve things that they could not achieve on their own.
However they are in a minority, and their competition for talented people is less competitors in their industry than the alternative of self-employment and entrepreneurship.
If you are a “passionate explorer”, what are the attributes of an institution that could attract you?
If you are a large organization, understand the scope of the task of shifting to become that kind of institution. Because it will be essential for your future prosperity.