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What's In It For Me?

05 June 2017

This week I'm working on an edit of the Easier Inc. book. I reckon it's still a few months away from completion because I'm double-running work on it with a few other things.

The main thrust of the book is that:

  • conventional organisations are anti-collaborative by design (although not by intent);
  • collaboration is essential to well functioning, high performing organisations;
  • we can re-engineer our organisations to make them inherently collaborative.

You can find the intro to the book here but today, I thought I'd share an excerpt from further on, which talks about why I think the creation of an inherently collaborative organisation is possible...

What's In It For Me?

For some, the very notion of an organisation built from the ground up for collaboration may sound like a pipe-dream; a failure to accept that human nature is propelled by self-interest and that working together will always suffer at the hands of “what’s in it for me?”; however, this is a red-herring.

We can admit that needs drive behaviours but when it comes to “what’s in it for me?”, our needs are not all resolutely self-serving. Viewed more fully, they encompass everything from finding food and shelter to filling our lives with purpose, meaning and value.

We can therefore think of our needs as belonging to two distinct categories of need; those that relate to security and those that relate to purpose.

In the workplace, our security related needs usually manifest in a desire for income security, a need to maintain stable employment or a need to achieve promotion (income security also being a function of how much income one needs and that tending to grow as time passes).

It is perhaps this category of need that we think of first when we hear the phrase “what’s in it for me?”.

But just as important are our purpose related needs. Our working lives belong to a process of self-actualisation or, if they do not, then work becomes something we disengage from, become disillusioned by or resent because we feel it as an impediment to our ability to grow into our potential.

Understood in this context, “what’s in it for me?” can be a powerful pull towards collaboration, compelling us to find opportunities for connection, belonging, higher purpose and legacy; helping us to find food for our souls not just for our stomachs.

And so “what’s in it for me?” is not only not an argument for why collaboration must fail, it might also be an argument for why it should succeed. 

“What’s in it for me?” can be a driving force towards becoming our fullest selves; the engine of a new type of organisation if we can learn how to harness it. Workplaces that offer security and purpose are workplaces where collaboration will thrive and where, as a consequence, performance will improve.

All of this means that the work to establish Easier Inc. - an organisational form built from the ground up for collaboration - is not just the work of establishing a higher performing sort of organisation but that of creating a more humane one too, where human flourishing is part and parcel of how things work.

What do you think? Can it be done? Can organisations be re-engineered to become inherently collaborative? Are you interested to explore how? If so, get in touch at We will take the time to understand your situation and we won’t give you the hard sell.


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