Friday, February 20, 2009

What will make sure we are doing things right?

Rules, or incentives? Neither. According to Barry Schwartz (also here), we also need practical wisdom.

Earlier this month on TED,Barry Schwartz made a passionate call for "practical wisdom" as an antidote to a society gone mad with bureaucracy. He argued powerfully that rules often fail us, incentives often backfire, and practical, everyday wisdom will help rebuild our world!

Here are some excerpts:

"When things go wrong, as of course, they do, we reach for two tools to try to fix them. One tool we reach for is rules, better ones, more of them; the second tool we reach for is incentives, better ones, more of them. What else after all is there? ...But the truth is, neither rules nor incentives are enough to do the job."

"As we turn increasingly to rules, rules and incentives may make things better in the short run, but they create a downward spiral that makes them worse in the long run."

"Moral skill is chipped away by over reliance on rules that deprives us of the opportunity to improvise and learn from our improvisations, and moral will is undermined by incessant appeal to incentives that destroy our desire to do the right things."

One of the best public speeches made by an academic I have ever seen! Deserve a watch.

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