Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Putting the profit motive and purpose motive together

Here, another video [based on the work/research of Dan Pink] that is in many ways contrary to the Slavoj Žižek video of the prior post. The economic insight, here, is to do exactly what Slavoj Žižek despises: Putting the profit motive and the purpose motive together in organizations.

But it's different, too, since Pink is looking at what goes on inside the organization, as opposed to Žižek who looked at consumer culture and greedheadedness of capitalism.

Pink uses a universe of research that shows that in cognitive tasks, 'pay' fails as a incentivizor to improve performance.  Instead, for people involved in 'thinking' jobs, being given autonomy, mastery and purpose are what's important to motivate better performance, so long as pay isn't unreasonably low.

This 'undermines' the central reason for the "success" of capitalism: that people are motivated by greed (or money, at least) and that we can "use" that to make society function. In not-unusual situations, people are not motivated by greed; instead, it's being loosed to do outstanding work and to think for oneself that brings employees joy.  It's meaning and happiness that tickle us into upsurges of high productivity on the job.

BUT, this also puts the kabosh on the idea, out in the left wing of the Sacramento homeless-help industy, that some oppressive form of socialism is the key to a better society.  A "command" government, that the wacky five nonprofits in Homeless World Sac want, would necessarily be totalitarian, and thus freedom killing.  Very few thinkers would have autonomy, mastery or purpose in their workday.  And, as has been shown by the failure of dozens of countries in the 20th Century, unhappy, unmotivated workers would be key reasons for the failure of the system.

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