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Finally help the fish out of that tree!

“Everything that is really great, and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom” – Albert Einstein

The quotes of great thinkers, researchers and successful business people are often twisted to fit better on a tile. In this article, however, nothing could be further from the truth. In his book “Out of My Later Years”, Einstein describes the immense importance of creativity and freedom, and the harmful effects that processes based solely on efficiency have on functioning on humans. Think of schools where too much emphasis is placed on performance instead of development.

According to Einstein, man should be given as much freedom as possible in his creativity. Only then can he allow himself to be guided by his instincts and moral considerations where achieving maximum happiness is a goal, and minimizing harm to others the way in which. This gives our (hidden) talents the opportunity to express themselves in the most impressive ways.

At Manual Master, we believe that this freedom is also crucial for successful business operations. Fred Vahlkamp tells how he found inspiration for this in the art library of Gorinchem. “When you stand among the beautiful works of art, you see that the artist was given the opportunity to put his heart and soul into the work. That freedom to create work based on what one feels and what he wants to make at that exact moment, this uninhibitedness, is a situation in which one can optimally apply his talents”.

It is not only artists who benefit from freedom in their work. There has also been plenty of support from science for years for this way of thinking in which freedom, also known as autonomy, leads to better results. According to a study by M. Gagné, C. Senécal and R. Koestner, conducted as a collaboration between Psychology University of Rochester and McGill University in Montreal, a high degree of autonomy is an important factor in how impactful employees assess their work. This is then one of the factors that leads to greater happiness in the workplace.

This focus on freedom also corresponds to the Self-Determination Theory (SDT), in which it is proven time and again that a sufficient degree of autonomy, competence (belief in one’s own abilities) and relationship (social connectedness) leads to better performance in the workplace, at school, or even on a personal level (such as when quitting smoking).

Why (not)?

Although the importance of freedom in the workplace is confirmed from all corners, from art to science, companies often do not yet know how to reap the benefits of this working attitude. “Employees are often constrained by regulations and must perform under the watchful eye of their managing managers. In this way, they are deprived of autonomy, so that they ultimately feel less connected to the company. That’s a shame,” says Fred.

Especially when an organization has been functioning for years in a tightly controlled way, letting go of control can be exciting. How do you know which people are capable of taking full responsibility for their work? Don’t they lose the grip because of freedom, which has made their work go very well until now? And how do you deal with employees who are struggling with this change and the new expectations that are set for everyone?

Vulnerability at the heart of success

Fred: “The answers to these questions can be found by communicating openly and honestly with each other. I am convinced that it is human nature to want to feel good at home and that employees want to take steps to this end, provided they are given the opportunity to do so.
This does require a flexible attitude from management. You have to be able to be vulnerable and be able to admit that until now you didn’t give employees the tools to master their tasks. When you can do that and then take your own responsibility to better support the employees in their autonomy – sounds paradoxical, doesn’t it – you discover that your company is full of rough diamonds.”

Of course, we assume that an increase in autonomy goes well for the majority of employees and that they do have the right tools at hand. Even then you are not ready: the freedom to express new ideas can just lead to the realization that your best and indispensable IT employee is actually a marketing mastermind who can and wants to implement much-needed improvements, but that they absolutely do not fit his current position. Do you dare to move along and shift with responsibilities within different departments to give the employee in his new role the freedom to realize innovative ideas?

Of course, we assume that an increase in autonomy goes well for the majority of employees and that they do have the right tools at hand. Even then you are not ready: the freedom to express new ideas can just lead to the realization that your best and indispensable IT employee is actually a marketing mastermind who can and wants to implement much-needed improvements, but that they absolutely do not fit his current position. Do you dare to move along and shift with responsibilities within different departments to give the employee in his new role the freedom to realize innovative ideas?

Get started

It all sounds like a radical change, but fortunately you can use this freedom step by step to let your employees stand just a little more in their power every day. Fred explains what such a first step can be: “First of all, make sure that the employees feel heard with the resources that you already have within your organization. Is there a stack of ideas and is it regularly looked at by the executive departments? Then take this into account more often in your internal communication. This way you normalize giving horizontal or bottom-up feedback and you stimulate the employees to think along about the development of the company. In any case, it doesn’t have to happen in one day!”

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