The Koch Associate Program (KAP), a year-long opportunity that blends professional development with real work experience, works with early-career professionals who want to discover their passions, develop their unique talents, and jumpstart their careers as social entrepreneurs. We are looking for future leaders who want to develop the knowledge, resources, and principles to transform their own lives, the organizations they work for, and society.
Our unique Market-Based Management® (MBM) is at the center of this training.
At MBM’s core is an important question: What do communities that thrive have in common? For most of history, human beings struggled to merely survive. As one famous political philosopher said, life was nasty and brutish … and short. In places where life expectancy was somewhat longer, individuals often still lacked control over their own lives. They were dominated by powerful leaders who forced their beliefs on those they ruled, denied their subjects the right to speak or restricted their movement, imposed harsh punishments for minor transgressions, pillaged crops, and worse.
Life began to improve steadily when societies started to recognize certain concepts. The idea that everyone was equal in their dignity and rights slowly – yet imperfectly – took hold. So did the notions that humans should tolerate the beliefs of others and respect what their neighbors owned.
These principles created a framework through which individuals could reach their potential. To the extent these principles were violated, lives were ruined and societies stagnated, but if people were liberated and empowered, they were able to drive progress from the bottom up.
MBM® attempts to do the same within organizations, and for individuals.
Let’s take a commitment to free expression as an example. Inviting each employee – from the intern to the CEO – to voice feedback in a constructive and thoughtful way unlocks ideas. It instills a sense of responsibility in everyone. If an individual’s opinions will be carefully considered, then it is more likely that person will take the time to develop and hone their insights and proposals. In an organization, we call this the challenge process, and it fosters a sense of ownership and innovation.
Free expression also helps individuals recognize the value of others. Every person in an organization benefits from feedback, and honoring that notion – as we do through the challenge process – breaks down the notion that asking for help signals weakness.
MBM® is made up of many tools and principles that help individuals diagnose problems and see opportunities, including the program’s eight Guiding Principles – Integrity, Stewardship and Compliance, Principled Entrepreneurship™, Transformation, Knowledge, Humility, Respect, and Self-Actualization – which are key to building the internal culture of an organization. When put into action, these values combine to create a dynamic and positive way of working.
An organization’s culture is the foundation of success, and a healthy, thriving workplace is a prerequisite to being able to solve problems. An organization that honors self-actualization, for example, believes every individual has unique gifts – gifts they can use to find fulfillment by helping others succeed. And, the more an organization helps employees identify where they derive satisfaction, the better off both the individual and organization will be.
This exercise is rarely easy. As humans, we are often told to follow “a path” to success. Too often that means individuals, early in their careers or even very late, come to the realization that they are working hard to achieve someone else’s definition of success. Following another person’s path engenders a deficit mindset, and it means the goal of our work is not to add value – it is to keep things (a job, an income) from being taken away.
MBM® helps transform this zero sum thinking into a contribution mindset where individuals are asked what they are passionate about and how their unique gifts can improve their lives and the lives of others.
I can personally speak to the difficulty – and benefits – of this transformation. As a recovering perfectionist, at one point in my adult life I would not even go bowling or play pool with friends because I was afraid of failing at something I believed should be simple. My fears extended beyond parlor games to public speaking and, as a result, I resisted taking on some of the more out front, educational roles that were being offered to me. It wasn’t until my boss presented my opportunities as a choice that I recognized the deficits apparent in my mindset. I could hold back and therefore stay comfortable. Or I could use my gifts to help others. Presented that way, there really is no choice.
My fear of failure is still a nagging notion, but with MBM®, at least it is no longer is a barrier.