Sunday, October 23, 2016


The US elections coverage and the media in general seems to be increasingly focusing on hate. The problem with hate and fear is - they are self-fulfilling. If you get sucked into the spiral, you just get more hateful and fearful. I am amazed of how hateful we are towards each other on social media.

I have had the misfortune of having seen both the Holocaust Museum and the Cambodian Genocide Museum. After the mind numbing visits, I couldn't fathom the fact that we can be very evil, brutal and remorseless, if we wish to be. History can blame 1 person, but there was an army of people who did all that and I strongly believe that they were driven by fear and hate.

Anyway, I completely understand that I am incompetent to talk about all that. So, I am gonna share a beautiful video by Black Eyed Peas that I seem to like (Where is the love?), and then move onto something that I feel I can write more about - Altruism.

So, while browsing, I chanced upon this article published in New York Times about the power of Altruism. While, I would highly encourage you to go read it, here is a gist of my understanding.

Human beings are intrinsically motivated to help each other and cooperate. We are social beings and helping each other comes naturally to us. However, when an economic incentive is introduced for good behavior, it completely alters the outcome. This is because, the moment money is introduced, it becomes an economic transaction and all "altruistic" intentions are lost.

Whole of modern economic theory is based on the fundamental assumption that - human beings are selfishly motivated and can go to any extent to fulfill their  self-interest. In doing so, the society organizes itself to produce general prosperity (Capitalism in a nutshell).

To quote the article verbatim - By assuming that people are selfish, by prioritizing arrangements based on selfishness, we have encouraged selfish frames of mind. Maybe it’s time to upend classical economics and political science. Maybe it’s time to build institutions that harness people’s natural longing to do good.

I experienced a good example of this in one of my previous organizations. We never had a policy of producing a "Doctor's certificate" for taking one-off sick leaves. Almost all of my team members never took any sick leaves till they were genuinely sick. However, a new HR Manager came and she introduced a policy that even for a single day of sick leave, a "Doctor's certificate" is a must. What was an intrinsically motivated sense of responsibility to work, suddenly became an economic transaction. My team members started intentionally taking more leaves cause Doctors won't force you to work if you tell them you are unwell. What was an occasional time off, now became a regular affair for many employees.

No comments:

Post a Comment