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In which the curmudgeonly old sod puts the world to rights.
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The Mercury astronauts had taken part in the development of their spacecraft, and insisted that manual control, and a window, be elements of its design. As a result, spacecraft movement and other functions could be controlled three ways: remotely from the ground when passing over a ground station, automatically guided by onboard instruments, or manually by the astronaut, who could replace or override the two other methods. Experience validated the astronauts’ insistence on manual controls. Without them, Gordon Cooper’s manual re-entry during the last flight would not have been possible.

—Wikipedia, Project Mercury

The sense — as your monstrous Atlas rocket blasts you into a low orbit, briefly slipping the surly bonds of Earth and dancing in the skies on laughter-silvered wings — that you are not just a projectile, but have some control over your domain. Some ability to influence the flight path, make it better, to claim credit and justification on your return from the heavens. The original Mercury design gave the astronauts no control. Their agitation led to interior door-handles (!) and a window. It looked like a sop, but as Gordon Cooper would tell you, it did come in handy.

More psychologically, if you are, say, a change manager tasked by your modernist boss to implement some new labour-saving, productivity-enhancing technology on an unwilling workforce, bear in mind the primal urges of your employees: not just money, but status, satisfaction and a sense that each can make a difference. Daniel Pink[1]boils these urges down to a yen for autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Now it may be that you don’t trust your meatsacks as far as you can throw them — let’s park the question why you even have them, if so — but you will get more engagement out of them if you give them an element of unchaperoned control. Let them make some decisions. Let them at least feel like they are shaping outcomes.

See also