Maximising Creativity

For various reasons, I decided to see if one of the early people motivation theories was still currently in use. This is the “Theory X, Theory Y” model. It was first stated in the “Human Side of Enterprise” by Douglas McGregor, published in 1960. This is listed on Amazon as out of print, but they do quote a price and shipment date, and has been reviewed in the last year by Sheila Ale. The top “Google, search site” offers, which holds an article about the Theory XY model here….

The model poses two forms of management behaviour, one is hard arse (X), the other enabling (Y). Theory X can be characterised as a directorial approach based upon a deep cynicism about staff (or people), which is described in the businessballs article, as based upon the view that people don’t want to work and have to be “forced” to do so. Theory Y was first described to me as “if you look after your people, they’ll look after you”. Again quoting the businessballs article “The capacity to use a high degree of imagination, ingenuity and creativity in solving organisational problems is widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population”.

I find it interesting in that once one reduces Theory X to its minimal components, it comes as no surprise that only underachieving enterprises permit Theory X to be the dominant management culture. Belief in your staff leads to competitive performance, it is this which is the essential part of the theory. For top performance, believe in, enable and liberate your people; we no longer live in a production line economy.


In simplistic terms, I suspect that Theory Y only works when people are enjoying what they do. If they’re not, then Theory X might be the only way to get any productivity. When someone’s in the wrong job, Theory Y gives leeway for taking advantage of the organisation’s culture.

Posted by Sylvia on December 13, 2004 at 01:17 AM PST

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