Sunday, September 12, 2010

Empowerment or Autonomy?

I am reading Dan Pink's book "Drive." It discusses how people are motivated and inspired (or not) by what they do. While it doesn't explicitly address entrepreneurship, it does have some interesting applications to BOPreneurs.

Where this came home to me was when the author bashes "empowerment" as being an empty phrase, based on old methods of motivation having little to do with creativity or purpose. In my experience, "planners" seem to talk more of empowerment (as though power is a gift from the developed world to the BOP) while "searchers" look for local input and approaches. Instead of empowerment, Pink believes motivation comes from having "autonomy." This means work is more motivating if it is self-directed in terms of the four T's of "time, task, technique and team."

If you plan to use people to sell your product or provide your service to BOP markets, do you talk about empowering women or micro-entrepreneurs? Perhaps it is time to take breath and reexamine your assumptions. The next time you hear a proposal to empower some group or community, it may be useful to take the perspective of respecting their autonomy instead.

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