[TED, invest 20:45 with Barry Schwartz] My advice in listening, if you have time, is to do it with soft ears - filter, and do not take it all so literally. That will make it an enjoyable and personal experience.
These are almost verbatim the part that most impressed me about the talk. Do you know when and how to make the exception to every rule? Brilliance isn't enough - you need wisdom. A wise person knows when to improvise.
When things go wrong we reach for two things - (1) rules, more rules, and (2) incentives. The truth is that neither rules not incentives do the job. They may make things better in the short run and destroy our desire to do the right thing in the long run. By employing rules and incentives, we give up wisdom.
We know why rules are there, we don't trust people on their own. Scripted rules are insurance policies against disaster. And they prevent disaster. What they assure in its place is mediocrity. We need rules, but too many of them and we stop doing altogether.
Instead of asking what is my responsibility, incentives make us ask what serves my interest. The answer to this dilemma is not devising smarter incentives. Incentives demoralize professional activity in two ways - they cause people engaged in that activity to lose morale; and they cause the activity itself to lose morality.
Are you asking, "is this the right thing to do?" How can we remoralize work?
- celebrate moral exemplars - people are inspired by moral heroes, acknowledge them
- know the people in your community - you have one, even when you've not built it yourself
- remember that you are always teaching - someone is always watching, the camera is always on
Schwartz concludes that what we need today is practical wisdom.
Some people in the comments to the talk lament the lack of practical motivation towards what should be done. My take is that this is personal and by example. Creating more rules and incentives would be missing the point entirely.
Thoughts of change and choice are seldom welcome - they miss the excuse of certainty and may instill the certitude of fear and doubt that freedom often brings. More than rules, perhaps we need guidance, that of our own moral compass. That can be outright uncomfortable and unpopular.