Freedom and Obligation

Two elements — perhaps competing, perhaps supporting — to consider in change are freedom and obligation.

The American culture encourages, and in fact demands, the right to individual freedom. I personally agree that this is a good thing, and that it can be that aspect of a culture that encourages a leader to step up and get change started.

An organization with a culture of innovation likely encourages a great deal of individual freedom in its members. The organization makes sure there is a path for bringing individual ideas forward and in the running for possible action. Individuals are recognized and supported.

However, I believe that as an individual there is also an obligation to the larger group. An idea proposed by an individual may be a great idea for that person — and may be a terrible idea for the larger group.

An individual’s idea is generated based on their own perspective, and may be narrowly focused to address a situation at hand for that individual.  Could definitely be a broader concept, but will inherently contain an individual’s bias, and that is completely to be expected.

If every individual’s idea for change were to be implemented by the organization, without any broader consideration, you could end up with a chaotic environment.  Take a moment to consider and balance each change proposed against the concept of “the greater good”. As an organization, you have an obligation to do right by your members in total. And any individual within the organization has the same obligation.

A delicate balancing act, perhaps, but when the aspects of freedom and obligation work together, the resulting change can encourage individualism and still provide for the common good.

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