TMA World Viewpoint 11 Beyond Selfishness
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- 1. Beyond Selfishness
TMA World Viewpoint
- 2. Beyond Selfishness
By Terence Brake - Head of Learning & Innovation, TMA
Occasionally, I come across a piece of writing that makes me want
to punch the air and shout, Yes!
That happened just recently when I read Professor Yochai Benklers
The Unselfish Gene
in the July-August 2011 edition of the Harvard Business Review.
What Professor Benkler does so well, is to counter the pervasive
and pernicious view that we are all born selfish; that we are
driven by a narrow rationality focused only on advancing our own
My name is
- 3. Beyond Selfishness
I first met this view of humankind homo economicus many years ago
in undergraduate economics classes.
I remember telling my professor
at the time that I thought that
this was a highly reductionist
and false assumption, and a
highly crude platform on
which to base economic theory.
- 4. Beyond Selfishness
One consequence of the self-interested rationality theory is that
when building human systems we assume the worst of everyone.
We develop incentive systems based
simply on self-interest,
the carrots and sticks approach.
Professor Benkler gives a number of examples
where self-interest doesnt adequately explain behavior
Wikipedia, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and open source
software like Apache.
The Web is full of cooperative activities that offer
little in terms of personal gain.
- 5. Beyond Selfishness
As well as common examples of minimally self-interested
cooperation, Professor Benkler also points to growing empirical
cooperation is not an aberration
One interesting study, showed that in experiments about cooperative
behavior, about 30% behave selfishly. About 50% systematically and
predictably behave cooperatively. Some of them cooperate
conditionally; they treat kindness with kindness and meanness with
meanness. Others cooperate unconditionally, even when it comes at a
personal cost. (The remaining 20% are unpredictable, sometimes
choosing to cooperate and other times refusing to do so.) In no
society examined under controlled conditions have the majority
people consistently behaved selfishly.
- 6. Beyond Selfishness
What this means is that most of our incentive systems based on
rewards, punishments, and monitoring are optimized for only 30% of
We need systems that stimulate:
shared sense of purpose
This doesnt mean looking at the world through rose-colored
spectacles; it means having a deeper, more complex, appreciation of
- 7. To learn more about how TMA World can help your
organization, please contact us at [email protected]
or visit www.tmaworld.com/our_solutions.cfm