By Adam Bear and David Rand
Originally published January 25, 2016
Cooperation is essential for successful organizations. But cooperating often requires people to put others’ welfare ahead of their own. In this post, we discuss recent research on cooperation that applies the “Thinking, fast and slow” logic of intuition versus deliberation. We explain why people sometimes (but not always) cooperate in situations where it’s not in their self-interest to do so, and show how properly designed policies can build “habits of virtue” that create a culture of cooperation. TL;DR summary: intuition favors behaviors that are typically optimal, so institutions that make cooperation typically advantageous lead people to adopt cooperation as their intuitive default; this default then “spills over” into settings where it’s not actually individually advantageous to cooperate.
Life is full of opportunities to make personal sacrifices on behalf others, and we often rise to the occasion. We do favors for co-workers and friends, give money to charity, donate blood, and engage in a host of other cooperative endeavors. Sometimes, these nice deeds are reciprocated (like when we help out a friend, and she helps us with something in return). Other times, however, we pay a cost and get little in return (like when we give money to a homeless person whom we’ll never encounter again).
Although you might not realize it, nowhere is the importance of cooperation more apparent than in the workplace. If your boss is watching you, you’d probably be wise to be a team player and cooperate with your co-workers, since doing so will enhance your reputation and might even get you a promotion down the road. In other instances, though, you might get no recognition from, say, helping out a fellow employee who needs assistance meeting a deadline, or who calls out sick.
The article is here.