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When You Assume Bad Faith, You Get It


There was an interesting article over the weekend in the Telegraph from Dan Pink on Netflix's "no policy" approach to HR policies. It's an outgrowth of their corporate culture, captured beautifully in their "Reference Guide on our Freedom and Responsibility Culture" outlined in the Slideshare presentation above--well worth a read through.

Pink's article notes that Netflix has learned something that Clay Shirky talks about in Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age

. . . when we design systems that assume bad faith from the participants, and whose main purpose is to defend against that nasty behaviour, we often foster the very behaviour we're trying to deter. People will push and push the limits of the formal rules, search for every available loophole, and look for ways to game the system when the defenders aren't watching. By contrast, a structure of rules that assumes good faith can actually encourage that behaviour.

So if you think people in your organisation are predisposed to rip you off, maybe the solution isn't to build a tighter, more punitive set of rules. Maybe the answer is to hire new people.

It strikes me that it is this bad faith approach that underlies most social media policies in organizations. And for that matter, it's a mental model that drives organizational behavior around most things related to both employees and customers, including learning.

What would be different about what we do if we started with different premises, assuming that most workers are honest, trustworthy, hard-working and focused on doing the right thing? What would services, policies and activities look like if we assumed the best of people, not the worst? How much more time could we spend on innovation and ideas, rather than on the sort of "whack-a-mole" management that leads us to continually chase after closing all of the loopholes in our punitive systems.?


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We really are a society that loves to create criminals by expecting crime everywhere

Sad, but true, Chuck.

Change expectations and get different results

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