Sunday, September 5, 2010

Composition and Execution, Part 1

The World of Work

In my last post, I arrived at the conclusion that the fundamental difference between what I call "creators" and "performers" is in their focus on either composition or execution, respectively. I think it will be valuable to further explore the implications of this conclusion for a variety of societal roles.

I hope to support the thought that there is a definite line between composition-focus and execution-focus. It is also important to point out that a focus on one does not exclude actions in the other. On the surface, there may well be no apparent difference between the actions of a creator versus the actions of a performer. That is, to be defined as a creator or a performer, one must merely desire to focus on one more than the other.

Drive is not about what one does, but about what one wants to do.

The most obvious place to start is where people spend most of their time: the world of work. People work at a number of different occupations in a number of different ways with a number of different approaches. Generally, there are four different approaches to productive work.

Most people work for some other people—either one or two employers or directly self-employed to numerous clients. Part of the remaining group build business entities which provide work (by whatever contract) to the previous two groups, while the other part works at skillful investing.

Fundamental to all of these is that an activity is done according to a certain skill set, and that the fruits of that activity are traded (which is more generally accurate than "sold"). When driven by composition-focus, an individual feels productive to the degree that his work is "outside the box." When motivated by a focus on execution, an individual feels productive to the degree that his work approaches his personal best.

Creators (driven by composition-focus) usually desire to avoid what appears to be competition with others in a fixed game. Instead, they favor working in areas and on projects which contain undefined parameters. The wisest creators understand that their work isn't so much creation as it is discovery. However, they do create a path within that what is otherwise an open field.

When they enjoy being employed or self-employed, their highest art comes in exceeding their employer or clients' expectations with regard to quality. Because they focus on the form of a given thing, the nature of their success is often hidden from view. The difficult labor and most of the failures happen privately.

When they transcend dependence upon others and enjoy an independent life, their highest art comes in the development of both charities and opportunities which succeed in helping others find independence. Their failures tend to be high-profile, and rest on their shoulders alone.

By contrast, performers (driven by execution-focus) usually seek out competition on a regulation track, whereby the difference between themselves and others is made readily apparent. Execution is easier to gauge than composition. The wisest of performers engage in win-win competitions, and know that their only real opponent is themselves.

As employees of both types, their greatest work is defined by checkpoints. The more levels they attain and the faster they attain them, the bigger star they become. Because they focus on activities and their results, the progress of their success is well-known to everyone around them. Likewise, their failures are a popular subject among the jealous.

As owners of businesses and nonprofits (or the money behind them), their greatest work is defined by an accelerated increase in whatever ends the organizations they lead seek to attain. If it is to be profitable, they increase its economic value. If it is to make a difference around the world, they fight to increase its influence. It is difficult to make a private blunder in any role at this level, and for a performer it is no different. However, the greatest performers reach high levels through the support of a team, and so have sustained influence despite setbacks.

This oversimplifies the complicated nature of the world of work, especially with regard to outside concerns, of course. What one does at work, and why one does so, are subjects for further discussion.


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