Arnold Williams (notebuyer) wrote,
Arnold Williams
notebuyer

How Real People Behave

Everyone has an interest in figuring out the people in your own family, your friends, and your co-workers (and boss). Almost everyone except Boomers have figured out that Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a crock, a totally useless way of describing and predicting human behavior.

But what should be in its place? Michael Jensen of Harvard Business School has a discussion of the alternatives that is well worth reading. It takes a while (it's 35 pages long, though fortunately not all that dense).

From the abstract:

The growing body of social science research on human behavior has a common message: Whether they are politicians, managers, academics, professionals, philanthropists, or factory workers, individuals are resourceful, evaluative maximizers. They respond creatively to the opportunities the environment presents, and they work to loosen constraints that prevent them from doing what they wish. They care about not only money, but about almost everything--respect, honor, power, love, and the welfare of others. The challenge for our society, and for all organizations in it, is to establish rules of the game that tap and direct human energy in ways that increase rather than reduce the effective use of our scarce resources.

Read it. Pass it on.

I'm particularly pleased by the examples of human adaptability and creativity. Anyone who has watched employees digest the latest vacation policy memo will realize how right the author's appraisal of human behavior is (and how little it depends on intelligence to execute -- even the mailroom will have a way to game the policy within a week of reading it.)

Update: It's also useful to recognize that there are other ways to make decisions, from those who want to avoid impossible goals, those who want to avoid wasting resources, those who want to mazimize the value of goals achieved, and those who just want to get to as many goals as possible. Any thoughts?
Tags: culture
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