Paul Dundon’s Weblog

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A little cheese and a little whine

Would You Work for This Company?

Would you enjoy working for a company that adopted the following principles? Before you get excited, I don’t think many such companies exist; the question is, would we like them to?

Democratic control of processes – no-one is to be expected to follow a process or procedure unless they have had a say in its definition. Processes and procedures are reviewed twice a year; anyone involved can propose changes; those who have to follow the procedure or work with its outcome get to vote on them.

Revenue sharing instead of salary – no-one draws a salary, but the revenue of the company, after debtors have been paid, is distributed amongst employees according to the contribution they make to the revenue (as determined by a democratically agreed protocol).

Control of capital – The same protocol governs how much of the company revenue is reinvested or invested elsewhere. This, and other factors affecting the use of revenue (eg how much the company pays for office space, what return it offers its investors) are controlled by policies which are democratically agreed at the lowest level possible.

Full engagement – you are invited to participate in any aspect of the business’s operation where you can demonstrate a reasonable degree of competence so that (a) you can, if you wish, follow a single product right the way through its lifecycle and (b) make full use of a diverse range of your own skills. Of course, if you focus on areas where your contribution is negligible, or fail to support others in making a contribution, this will be reflected in your remuneration.

Right of client veto – anyone involved in creating a product has a right of veto over the company selling that product to a particular customer. For example, anyone involved in producing a widget can veto the company selling those widgets to an arms manufacturer. For a very large production team, this right might be exercisable only if a quorum can be reached.

The idea underlying these principles is that they work against the phenomenon of alienation as described by Marx (at least, my rather meagre understanding of it). But, do they help? Would they make for a happier workplace? Which are important, and which are appealing? Does everyone feel the same way, or is this a workplace which some would love and others would hate? Would (dare I ask) these principles create businesses that succeed?

Answers on a postcard (or, more usefully, on the comment form below) please.

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Filed under: Psychology

A rewarding new year

So, my life’s got badly out of balance over the last two years and my health is starting to suffer. I’ve made a bunch of new year’s resolutions about taking better care of myself and it’s all going well but I thought I’d take some advice from the experts and set some concrete, incremental goals and reward myself for accomplishing them. (See, eg, this chap.)

Which is great, isn’t it?

But herein lies the rub. Let’s say I want to make sure I do some exercise on 10 of the 31 days in January, and if I hit that goal, I’ll spend £10 on a hat (I don’t really want a hat, by the way. It’s a convoluted reference to the funeral scene in Hot Shots, where Tupper Harley hands over his life savings to the widow and she says “Thanks, with the millions I got from the life insurance, I can take this five thousand dollars and blow it all on hats.”)

Sorry. Okay, I’ve promised myself a nice hat if I hit my exercise goal for January. And if I don’t hit my goal then –

Well, what, exactly?

If I don’t buy the hat then the £10 will stay in the bank, or go to pay off a credit card, or something similar. And that means it will get spent, one way or another. And given I only buy things I like, the £10 is going to end up buying something I like, whether or not it’s the hat. And (thinking about it this way) buying the hat just means I have less money to buy something else I want at some other point. So really, if I reach my goal, I’m just buying the hat instead of something else I want, and that isn’t really much of a reward.

I mean, I’d probably go out buy the damn hat in March anyway.

Okay, so, what if I give the money to someone else, or to charity if I fail to reach my goal? No hats for lazy old Paul while there are children in Beverly Hills with eating disorders. The problem now is that, given I’m basically a charitable person, this gives me a positive incentive not to achieve my goals because a cause I care about will benefit from my failure (in fact, if one takes my commitment seriously under a utilitarian framework, it might even give me an obligation not to achieve my goals).

So what should I do? Spend the £10, if I fail to achieve my goal, on something I positively don’t want – the Joe McElderry single, perhaps, or a book by Ayn Rand? Or is there a better solution?

Filed under: Psychology

Ten Psychology Studies

Came across this link:

Ten Psychology Studies from 2009 Worth Knowing About – David Disalvo – Brainspin – True/Slant

Most of them look like junk but 1 & 4 are interesting.

Filed under: Psychology

Intelligence Testing

It’s quite a long and involved tale that leads to my looking at http://www.mensa.org/workout2.php but there I found the following puzzle:

Puzzle

Puzzle

Presumably, the creator of the puzzle expects us to reason as follows: The four symbols in the top row are the same, so each has a value of 28/4=7; the two bananas in the second row are therefore together worth 30 – 7*2 = 16 so each banana is worth 8. The last two rows are a little trickier but by applying this sort of reasoning one reaches the conclusion that the missing number is 25.

It was only later that I realised the symbols are completely irrelevant. The total of the rows must equal the total of the columns, so the missing number must be (28+30+20+16)-(19+20+30), a much easier calculation.

This leads me to wonder:

  1. Whether the puzzle’s creator intended to provide two solution methods
  2. How many people, like me, choose the dumb one
  3. How people’s performance would change if one manipulated the symbols in, say, the bottom two rows, to make the puzzle solvable only by the second method

Filed under: Psychology

My Bookshelf

The Golden Bough
The Value of Nothing
The Fire
A Wolf at the Table
Devil Bones

My del.icio.us links