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The Role of Money in Collaboration

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The Role of Money in Collaboration

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Achieving collaboration requires a fundamental shift in how employees are typically encouraged to behave. Traditionally, our organizations are setup to promote the ideal of individual performance, with salaries and promotions governed by the performance of each of us as individuals.

What’s more, constructions such as org charts deepen the sense that we are not one collective, but rather a series of distinct teams (or siloes if you like), with clear demarcations between each team.

Therefore there are many environmental changes that are required in order to encourage the kind of collaborative behaviors and thoughts that many organizations now strive for.

What role does money play in all of this? That was the question posed in recent research led by Gabriele Camera.

“There’s a theory that we use money because without it, we would do much worse, in terms of trade,” said Camera, a professor at the Economic Science Institute at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. But this theory hasn’t yet explained the role of human behavior in trading, he said.

Whilst historically humans traded primarily with people they knew and trusted, modern transactions are typically conducted between strangers.

Their experiments revealed that in controlled settings where no incentives were given to either cooperate or not cooperate, that individuals typically behaved in a self-interested fashion. They literally did not trust each other when there was nothing for them to exchange.

The researchers then introduced a form of currency however to see what impact it would have on cooperation between participants, and found that it had a significantly positive impact. Whereas previously individuals would act in their own interests, when currency was added, they began using them in exchange for help, and vice versa expecting payment for help they offered to others.

“It’s not that they trusted others, but they trusted that others would help in exchange for a token,” Camera explained. “This object, which has no intrinsic value, acquired value and became a symbol of trust.”

Whereas considerable research has been published highlighting the intrinsic motivations that underpin many of our behaviors, this provides a timely reminder that money should not be overlooked when trying to change how people act.

Originally posted at Work.com

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