Many of us remember growing up and hearing the admonishment from adults to “turn off the lights” or “clean up that plate” because wasteful habits – whether with food or electricity – were not OK.
It appears that companies also could benefit from such admonishments, as a new book argues that having more resources is the wrong solution for building more innovative, agile and competitive organizations. Instead, by asking employees to do more with what they have, there will be greater engagement and creativity, says Scott Sonenshein, author of “Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less – and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined.”
“How we think about and use resources has a tremendous influence on professional success, personal satisfaction and an organization’s performance,” Sonenshein says.
As a social scientist and Rice University professor, Sonenshein spent more than 10 years looking at what makes organizations more prosperous and the employees better off. He’s studied many different industries such as technology, manufacturing, banking and retail.
“We routinely overestimate the importance of acquiring resources but even more significantly underestimate our ability to make more out of those we have,” he says.
His research shows that whether it’s about adapting to major changes or everyday routines, employers and their employees can expand their resources to achieve great things and feel fulfilled – to “stretch.”
The key, he says, is rejecting the idea that more resources equal better results. His research shows that throwing more resources at anything that comes along fails to generate the best outcome because it leads teams to go after resources they don’t need and to overlook the real potential of the resources they already possess.
Still, resources are important. For example, companies must have talented employees, skills and equipment in order to do the work and do it well. But if a team is “chasing” then it’s geared to looking for more resources instead of being more creative and finding ways to expand or create with what’s already on hand, he says.
One of the problems, Sonenshein explains, is that there are always going to be those who are trying to convince leaders or teams that more is better. The grass will always seem greener on the other side, he says, but “chasing makes people miserable because there’s always someone who has more.”
For those looking to become better stretchers, Sonenshein advises that teams need to:
Sonenshein says that leaders should not fear having less – or “constraints” – because it forces teams to be more creative and look at problems and solutions in a new way. Having less gives everyone permission to do thing less conventionally, which is why research shows that some of the toughest problems are solved by those with the least direct knowledge about them, he says.
Now that you know how to be more resourceful, here are 3 ways to increase your team's flexibility and agility.