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From GitHub to Google, companies are increasingly adopting policies that allow teams substantial autonomy over both who they work with and what they work on. This can help employees to feel greater levels of ownership over their work, thus boosting creativity and innovation.
It’s easy to take autonomy too far. In a new study, the authors found that teams that were allowed to choose both the composition of their groups and the ideas they worked on actually performed substantially worse than those who were only allowed to choose either teammates or ideas (but not both).
The question managers should ask themselves is not whether they should give teams autonomy, but what kind of autonomy they should give them.
Instead of becoming obsessed with autonomy above all else, managers should take a more nuanced approach and think critically about which areas will benefit from autonomy — and which will not.
Two strategies to help managers leverage autonomy on their teams more effectively:
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