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29 Sep 2011

Cooperation vs. Self-interest (Pt 2): Context – The Great Influencer

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Cooperation vs. Self-interest

As we saw with pigeonholing and tasting food, context influences us greatly. This extends to people’s inclinations to collaborate. In support of this, the July-August 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review has Yochai Benkler’s citing in his article “The Unselfish Gene” the work of Lee Ross from Stanford University. He found people being more inclined to collaborate if the context of the effort promotes it.

That’s why leadership that manages, operates and communicates with the implied assumption that employees are essentially motivated by “What’s in it for me” will tend to foster a less collaborative culture than leadership doing the same against a backdrop of collaboration. From an everyday perspective, this means the culture that heavily relies upon extrinsic rewards such as money, awards and perks for individual performances will tend to be less collaborative than the one relying upon intrinsic rewards such as the enjoyment of working with and helping others. Mastering morale builders that don’t cost a cent go a long way in helping here.

This doesn’t mean we eliminate monetary rewards for individuals, but it does mean we focus more on the culture we are promoting in our businesses; culture is context. However, the promotion of that culture must be real. If employees sense a divorce between words and actuality, then the context for collaboration falls, thus causing most employees to resort to self-interested behavior.

Using intrinsic rewards to buttress a collaborative context is involved. In addition to mastering morale builders, it means mastering compliments. Understanding and appreciating the different kinds will help us see how intrinsic rewards differ from extrinsic ones. It’s only by mastering these on an interpersonal level will we be able to extend it throughout our companies and organizations.



Series Navigation<< Cooperation vs. Self-interest: Which Reigns Supreme?Cooperation vs. Self-interest (Pt 3): Empathy >>

1 Response

  1. Pingback : Cooperation vs. Self-interest (Pt 2): Context – The Great Influencer | Mike Lehr's Blog | Collaborationweb | Scoop.it

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