In an atomistic, individualistic and competitive business culture we can miss subtleties in many concepts. We focus on the individual and forget the system in which the individual operates.

The idea promoted by Dan Pink that purpose, autonomy and mastery is the key to motivation is a very popular concept where an important subtlety is often lost. People love this concept because it sounds like our ideal heroic business agent – mastering the universe, empowered and enabled by destiny.

This characterisation misses an important point: Purpose, autonomy and mastery shape relationships and our relatedness to others.

Purpose: Purpose is our desired impact on others. We have relationships in the heart of our personal purpose.

Autonomy: Autonomy is not absolute. Autonomy is relative. Our autonomy is a measure of our relationships to others. Autonomy comes from the trust and authority that others grant us based on our behaviours.

Mastery: Mastery is enhanced by collective practice. The measure is not absolute it is an ever shifting relative standard. Read Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman or Togetherness. Read any of Harold Jarche. Mastery is best achieved in apprenticeships, communities, mentoring and the guidance other human relationships.

We live in a world that requires more than freely independent masters of the universe. We need people who manage purpose, autonomy and mastery through and for others. Relatedness is the concept that reminds us that all work is human.

We need to focus on how we best use relationships to reinforce our own motivations, to motivate others and to do our best work.

Thanks to Matt Guyan for drawing my attention to the idea of Self determination theory and its use of relatedness.

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