Science has proven that human beings are not selfish by nature. Recent research in a range of scientific disciplines, such as evolutionary biology, psychology, sociology and experimental economics, have all demonstrated that human beings are not as selfish as we thought. According to the research just 30% of all humans act selfishly by nature, while 20% are unpredictable and the remaining 50% tend to prefer cooperation, although not unconditionally.
How can companies capitalize on this a propensity for cooperation? The answer can be found in a book by Professor Yochai Benkler, the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School and also one of the authors featured in the latest book published by BBVA, “Ch@nge”.
At a point in history when technology and the Internet have driven the cost of cooperation to its lowest ever ebb, where might this potential for cooperation take us? Will it be capable of transforming business, government and even entire societies? Where are the limits for what can be achieved through collaboration?
Contrary to the predominant mindset of the 17th Century, the approach taken by Yochai Benkler is very optimistic: “people are so selfish that they need a strong government to prevent them from destroying themselves”, said the philosopher Thomas Hobbs in his 1651 book “The leviathan”. Professor Benkler borrows from this work for part of the title of his own book. Meanwhile, the “Penguin” in the title refers to the logo used by Linux, an open software company that has grown precisely as a result of developers working together.
More than 300 years later things look more promising: are human beings prone to cooperating? Wikipedia, Linux and the Chicago community policing program (a partnership between the police and citizen groups) offer some evidence that they might.
If cooperation is the key to success, why does this equation not always lead to excellent results in the work environment? Companies need to build effective systems to support cooperation, taking into account basic principles such as: intrinsic motivation over punishment, promoting communication, empathy, authenticity and “face to face” relations.
In the book, which is freely available to non-academic readers, Professor Benkler questions how we approach work and daily life, leading to a reassessment of our perception of human nature. Is true human nature, the nature that has seen us to evolve over the centuries, behind the concept of the common good, an idea so often acknowledged by the Internet industry? If you would like to find out more, read the full article written by Yochai Benkler for the book “Ch@nge”.
By Dory Gascueña for OpenMind