Taking Pwnership of Results

No, this is not a typo. At the risk of eliciting a violent response from the Peanut Gallery, I’m here today to talk about “Pwnership.”

We’ve all heard the phrase “Taking Ownership” — it is a valuable business concept for organizations looking to foster employee empowerment, advancement and innovation. However, as with all phrases that become commonplace, “taking ownership” is diminishing from the force of its original intent. The phase is not *totally* overused, but it’s already at the stage where it’s lost some of its zing.

When a supervisor asks a direct report to “take ownership” of something, they are typically trying to signify something more than mere delegation of a task — they are trying to signify a transfer of responsibility for an outcome. 

Some might argue that it’s impossible for a boss to truly transfer ultimate responsibility, though we’ve all probably seen quite a few try!   Perhaps a better word to use is “accountability” …remember, there is no such thing as a synonym. All inputs to a process are “responsible” for an outcome, but to be “accountable” for an outcome is what this “ownership” idea is about.

There’s definitely a spectrum of how much “ownership” a worker can have over the work they do — and presumably, whether as an “owner” or “partial owner,” a worker goes the extra mile to get the outcomes  desired by their “co-owners” (aka their employers).

The problem then becomes as follows: In a world of empowering organizations with multi-faceted jobs and well-designed key performance indicators (ok, maybe not the WHOLE world is like that…), doesn’t everyone “own” all their tasks? 

So while it’s a whole lot better to work in one of those empowering, enlightened organizations, as opposed to having a job in a sweatshop or, oh, I don’t know, let’s say RETAIL, the whole “ownership” trope does little to inspire, differentiate or motivate a person to treat a given task or responsibility with a greater sense of priority, care or urgency.

3v0lut10n 0f teh pwn4ge

3v0lut10n 0f teh pwn4ge

Enter the pwnage:  Derived from online gaming argot of l33tspeak, the term to pwn is a deliberate misspelling of the verb used to denote possession, and refers to total victory over a challenge (usually in the form of an enemy player).  The state of pwning is referred to as “pwnage,” or frequently, “total pwnage.”  

So while we all may have myriad tasks and responsibilities that we are “owners” of, there can only be one thing that, at any given time, we are completely focused on and determined to not merely “do,” but to completely and utterly conquer — to pwn.

total punage

total punage




To pwn is to hit the proverbial Home Run, out of the Ballpark. It is about achieving exceptional results where decent results are typically expected… or getting those results repeatedly where others typically tire. To pwn is be in the Zone.

Pwnership starts where Ownership ends.

What are you going to pwn today?


About danspira

My blog is at: http://danspira.com. My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on September 23, 2008, in Business, Career, Jargon. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. ahhh now ur speaking my language!

    love the “lean back” picture.. ftw.

    the more i read ur menagerie, the more i realize i’m in a completely different universe when it comes to business concepts.

  2. tell me about your Universe…

  3. my universe has only one galaxy in it!

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