Monday, July 6, 2009

Faulty Motivational Model

I am surprised when established names confuse between causal relation and correlation. Just because parameter A and parameter B seem to move together (or in opposite direction) does not mean A is driving B or vice-versa. It is entirely possible that there is something else that is driving both A and B. That is something else has a causal relation with A and B; on the other hand A and B have a correlation.

Let me make it more clear with this ...

I am now reading the Harward Business Review series on Motivating People. The first article is Beyond Empowerment: Building a Company of Citizens by Brook Manville and Josiah Ober. They mean well but the premise is basically faulty. The article proposes that the participative democracy of Athens should be the model for 'Business Organizations Suited to Knowledge Economy'. Such a model would encourage creativity in an atmosphere of trust and dignity. Especially because some 2500 years ago such participative democracy resulted in flowering of the Athenian civilization.

Now I am all for creative freedom and self-governance that will motivate knowledge workers, but we need to be very careful when we start using something as model. Was participative democracy the cause for the creative outburst in Athens? Let us see a very contrasting situation. What is now called the Classical Period in India's history is when King Vikramaditya ruled India. We have mathematicians such as Aryabhatta who not only gave the value of Pi but also explained the heliocentric theory and the revolution of earth's on its axis. Kalidasa, the Shakespeare of India, created during this period. Temple architecture reached its zenith during this period - at least in Northern India. But this was under an absolute Monarch. Likewise, when the Arab world flowered - Mathematics, Astronomy, Poetry - that eventually resulted in the European renaissance, was not done under any participative democracy.

So, does it mean we should implement the model of absolute but benevolent monarchy on 'business organization suited to knowledge economy'?

I think too much emphasis is placed on developing a model. It appeals to the human sense of order. Here we have a model. This is prescriptive but gives you general guideline of how an organization should be.

And oh yes, lest we should forget, it was this participative democracy that sentenced Socrates to death.

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