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Skewing the scale towards the privilege of autonomy

By Scott Ginsberg, Head of Content, Metric Digital

If you’re someone who needs permission from a wise authority before you’re comfortable with autonomous action, then working at a large corporation will suit you well.

But if you’re entrepreneurial in nature and willing to bend or tweak a rule in order to create value for your team and its customers, then a startup or agency is probably more up your alley.

Ask anyone who’s ever worked at a large organization. Having a scrappy sense of ownership over the work has a tendency to bother and infuriate coworkers.

It’s like that kid in the front row who always asks a question right before the bell rings. Other students throw daggers his way.

What the hell are you doing? We’re almost out of here! Put your hand down.

During my stint as a valet parker at a luxury hotel, one of my coworkers took it upon himself to write and present comprehensive report on how to redesign and optimize our front drive to retrieve cars faster and boost our revenue.

The strategy was incredibly savvy and thoughtful, but the other valets just rolled their eyes and called him a brown nose for the next month.

That deeply bothered me. Not only because he was my friend and a super smart dude, but also because it kills me to see great ideas laying at people’s feet, drained of animation.

But that’s par for the course at large organization.

Norville Barnes, the fictional screwball who invented the hoola hoop, comes to mind.

After he becomes company president, the elevator operator comes to his office to present a new idea to him, he responds as follows.

How dare you barge in here and take up my valuable time! I’ve got a company to run! I can’t have every deadbeat on the payroll pestering me with their idiotic brainwaves.

This is an exaggerated portrayal of corporate leadership, but there is a kernel of truth in the president’s outburst.

Imagine the number of employees, particularly new hires, who never even make it that far. People whose ideas don’t see the light of day because they’re afraid of taking the risk, looking dumb, being shot down, or worst of all, being fired. Millions and millions of people every day.

It’s one of my favorite features of working at this small but mighty company.

Our ideas don’t move like molasses because none of us are micro managed. Each day, we all work to create a wider and deeper sense of ownership to everything we do, from client work to internal processes to recruiting and retention.

If we’re hacking a campaign in an interesting way, and it’s actually making money for the clients, then we speak up. We brag about it or teach a class on it during lunch one day. Whatever it takes to keep those good ideas in motion.

And the best part is, none of us are ridiculed for taking extreme ownership.

Do you ask for permission or beg for forgiveness?

Sound like the kinda place you'd want to work?

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