Advice focusing on channeling the powers of the ego to ensure the success of organizations and groups seems to pointedly ignore the benefits of co-operation. Don’t get me wrong; I’m of the opinion that all sentient beings are driven by ego. In so many ways my views don’t venture too far from Schopenhauer’s conception of “Will”.
At this point most of you might be thinking: “what does a 19th Century philosopher have to offer a 21st Century organizational model?” I’d say a great deal but the key contribution is his idea of Will as the driving force behind human action.
The philosopher’s concept of Will is multi-faceted. I want to focus on the most elemental point. The clearest explanation I’ve come across is highlighted within this phrase:
As long as we rely only on experience, the only thing we can know is how things appear on the outside, by how they seem to our senses. Only in the case of my own self is it possible for me to turn within and know it’s fundamental inner nature. And when I do turn inward and try understand what it is at its central core, what I will encounter in there is pure life drive. The pure energy, force, and urge at the center of all life. That is what “Will” is.
The idea is simple. We can only know the external as perception. The ‘inner’ knowledge we have is that of ourselves or the pure energy, drive, and urge at the center of living. What Schopenhauer calls Will. With this information it’s tempting to conclude that Will is primarily ego-driven hence humans are prone to be focused on personal and individual satisfaction.
I won’t fully disagree with this superficial interpretation. In the world of businesses and organizations, individuals are motivated by success. Success can bring satisfaction, it’s the primary component motivating individuals to achieve under the umbrella of organizations.
The pure energy driving this motivation can be varied but it seems to me short-sighted to insist that it’s simply a self-motivated impulse that propels people into action. I view the ego as a complicated concoction that seeks out approval and a sense of collective incentive as much as it desires the gratification of certain selfish impulses.
Businesses and organizations function as groups. Individuals continue to join and form groups out of an enlightened self-interest. That is they co-operate with one another for selfish reasons. We often see in complex interactions that people tend to be nice to one another for self-interested reasons. Most people adopt a “Tit-for-Tat” strategy where all involved parties gain some mutual benefit.
Reciprocity is the key element in explaining the general agreeableness between individuals in competition. Beneath the seeming glory of outperforming colleagues measured against each other, collaboration seems to generate a more satisfactorily advantage.
In environments where some sort human interaction needs to occur, which is true of the most basic of situations. Focusing primarily on individual incentive as the catapult of motivation could be a very narrow interpretation.
Like Schopenhauer I believe that individuals are driven by an inner urge that can’t be anything but the ego. However, I tend to see this drive as a labyrinthine contributor of human activity that the rational mind fails to fully comprehend.
From an organizational viewpoint it seems fundamental to me that a results-driven obsession with productivity be reconsidered. More than simply enjoying the fruits of all their labor, other processes are behind what motivates individuals. A more conscious acceptance of this dilemma would be a good place to start.