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Posted by on May 11, 2010

Almost No One Ever Washed a Rental Car

Why would you?

It doesn’t belong to you.

But imagine you’ve brought your own, brand-new car home. You will detail that thing if it starts to get dirty (or pay someone else quite a bit of money to do so).

It is sometimes said that when an employee makes a suggestion in a meeting, that participant’s suggestion is the most powerful idea in the room, at least to its author. That’s a privately-owned idea, and there’s some serious investment in it.

Contrast this with just telling someone to do something. That’s a rental car. No pride of ownership there.

It turns out that there are neurological reasons why energy is created with the birth of an idea. An “aha!” that is shared is part of a motivational profile that should be recognized as an asset, or resource. People will really work hard on their own ideas. If you encourage and foster that, employees will share more ideas. They are excited by seeing a difference they make. If you hog all the idea-creation (Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Built to Last, calls this model “the genius with a thousand helpers,” – and it’s much more common than we generally acknowledge), everyone will be driving rental cars.

Why the “Almost” in the title of this blog? After years of talking about this principle in leadership development classes, one participant once raised his hand and said he washed his rental cars. Hence the caveat in leadership development involving humans – “Actual user experience may vary.”

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