Creation Participation Involvement

I have been thinking about the relationships we all experience to the work product we are responsible for. The degree of authority we express over some work product, the degree of autonomy we have over some work processes, and the degree of responsibility we are assigned for that work product dictate our role or relationship with that product, and potentially can affect our productivity and job satisfaction.

If you inhabit a creator relationship to a work product, you have an extreme ownership in that work product. You identify with it. It bears your signature. If it sucks, by relationship, you suck as well. As a creator, you tend to be very protective of your work product, and it can be very proprietary to you. You have secret sauce; Trade secrets; there is a box in your flowchart labeled “magic happens here” – which you may be unwilling to describe in any real detail. You may see the beauty of your creation, and reflect with pride. You may be somewhat perfectionistic – not wanting others to “see” your work product until it is “ready”. You may not be willing or able to accept challenges to your work product constructively, but may take things personally, when people try to suggest ways to improve your work product.

If you inhabit a participant relationship to a work product, you have only partial ownership in that work product. You are responsible for its completion, but do not have or need liberty in defining the process for creating the work product. It may be collaborative, with several participants working on a single whole – or you may be working alone, but under the direction of someone else. Improvements to your work product may need to be approved by others before they can be accepted. Your secrets sauce is probably limited to how you deliver work product faster than your peers, as you have limited control over the definition. What is clear to you is that your participation is essential to the product. You are keenly aware of the relationship between your participation and the whole product.

If you inhabit an involved relationship to a work product, you have very limited stake in that work product. Perhaps your involvement is defensive, you are reviewing the product to ensure that it does not impact other more central issues. Perhaps your involvement is assistive or consultative – you are merely helping others around you. When you are merely involved, you may not care as much about the wholistic view of the work product, but only your part. You may tend to put blinders on, and ignore the relationship of your involvement to the whole.


This is a spectrum – from involvement to creation, without discrete stages or steps. Think about your work products. You probably have quite a few. Evaluate whether you are closer to the creation or the involvement end of the spectrum. Which products are you happiest about? I would wager that it is those that you are closer or closest to the creation end of the spectrum. Where do you do your best work? I bet that it is closer to the creation end of the spectrum.

If you really want to juice up your output and your work satisfaction, talk to your manager. Work together with her to figure out how you can tilt your responsibilities towards the work product with which you have a creator relationship.

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