Thomas W. Malone is the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence. He was also the founding director of the MIT Center for Coordination Science and one of the two founding co-directors of the MIT Initiative on "Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century". Tom teaches classes on leadership and information technology, and his research focuses on how new organizations can be designed to take advantage of the possibilities provided by information technology.
For example, in an article published in 1987, he predicted many of the major developments in electronic business over the last decade: electronic buying and selling, electronic markets for many kinds of products, "outsourcing" of non-core functions in a firm, and the use of intelligent agents for commerce. The past two decades of Tom’s research are summarized in his critically acclaimed book, The Future of Work: How the New Order of Business Will Shape Your Organization, Your Management Style, and Your Life (Harvard Business School Press, 2004). This book has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portugese, Spanish, and Russian.
Tom has published over 75 articles, research papers, and book chapters; he is an inventor with 11 patents; and he is the co-editor of three books: Coordination Theory and Collaboration Technology (Erlbaum, 2001), Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century (MIT Press, 2003), and Organizing Business Knowledge: The MIT Process Handbook (MIT Press, 2003). Tom speaks frequently for business audiences around the world and has been quoted in numerous publications such as Fortune, New York Times, and Wired. Before joining the MIT faculty in 1983, he was a research scientist at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), where his research involved designing educational software and office information systems. His background includes a Ph.D. and two master’s degrees from Stanford University, a B.A. (magna cum laude) from Rice University, and degrees in applied mathematics, engineering-economic systems, and psychology.
Most economic theories (and many managers) assume that the best way to get what you want from workers is give them the right financial incentives.
But most real people have lots of reasons for working besides just making money. They work to have fun, to socialize with others, to challenge themselves, to find meaning in their lives, and for many other reasons. To bring out people’s best efforts in their work, we need to engage more of these non-monetary motivations.
Of course, there’s nothing new about the fact that people are often more dedicated and creative when they are doing work they enjoy or find meaningful. But in our increasingly knowledge-based and innovation-driven economy, human brains—not capital—are becoming the primary drivers of business success. And having dedicated, creative workers can often mean the difference between business success and failure.
So how can we engage people’s best efforts? How can we make work more fun?
One of the best ways to make work fun is to give people more control over what they do. In my book The Future of Work , I talked about how giving people more control—more freedom—in business is now...