Charlie Rose interviewed Malcolm Gladwell recently. They had the following discussion on meaningful work (at 26:00 into interview).
Gladwell: Meaningful work is one of the most important things we can impart to children. Meaningful work is work that is autonomous. Work that is complex, that occupies your mind. And work where there is a relationship between effort and reward — for everything you put in, you get something out…
If you are convinced that the work you are doing is meaningful, then curiosity, there’s no cost to it. If you think there’s always got to be a connection between what you put in and what you get out, then of course you’ll run off with a great excitement after an idea that catches your idea.
Rose: People often ask me to define leadership and I say to them what you just said all the time. You have to communicate what the mission is all the time — and how meaningful someone’s contribution is to the mission.
When you believe that the work you’re doing has meaning, it’s an extra shot of adrenaline. Good food for thought for anyone trying to create a workplace culture that engages employees.
In the interview, Gladwell also mentioned he meets with Nathan Myhrvold once a month to discuss ideas. Myhrvold sounds like quite a character: formerly Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, began college at age 14, worked under Stephen Hawking studying cosmology, is a prize-winning nature and wildlife photographer whose work has appeared in scientific journals like Science and Nature, is a master French chef who works at one of Seattle’s leading French restaurants, and he won the world championship of barbecue. Talk about a renaissance man!