Does Being Nice Pay Off?
Two interesting research pieces crossed my desk in the past few weeks. One, from Stanford, argues that while people want to hang out with generous, kind, honest, sincere, and trustworthy people, they often select (hire or buy from) people who exhibit competitiveness, effectiveness, intelligence, and confidence. The other, from Harvard, argues that “nice guys can finish first”. Specifically, that social networks aid in cooperation and discourage selfishness and that groups will eliminate people or break connections by those who behaved selfishly.
Jennifer Aaker, of Stanford, and two colleagues document 3 experiments that show consumers perceive non-proﬁts as being warmer than for-proﬁts, but as less competent. Further, that consumers are less willing to buy a product made by a nonproﬁt, than by a for-proﬁt because of their perception that the ﬁrm lacks competence. More here on her work. I can think of many companies that are both competent and good because they manage to share their purpose while being efficient (REI, Patagonia, Starbucks, Nike, as quick examples).
David Rand, of Harvard. says that people were more willing to make new connections or maintain existing connections with those who acted generously, and break connections with those who behaved selfishly. His result focused on when people had choice; in those situations generosity won. In closed systems, selfish people did better and selfishness itself spread. More of his work here.
This raises an important set of questions about what to emphasize: nice or competent. I often get people asking me this question about “am I too nice”. (More often it is asked as, “Do I need to become an a**hole to get xyz done?”) Personally, I see no conflict in being generous, kind, etc AND also being wickedly competent and confident. (It’s like apologizing for making money even if you’re doing a social good.) The research shows it’s important to FIRST make an impression of competence if the goal is to have someone select you as someone worth listening to, or to pick you for something.
I see (and I’m sure you do, too) tons of people focusing more on espousing and advocating only their own opinions (spiking on competence) rather than participating in solution creation together (spiking on collaboration), and they get plenty of followers / love / PR from that activity. Which would lead me to discount Rand’s findings for work settings. As I clicked through the research, it is quite possible that Rand’s work is capturing a generational shift or of a group that believes in a non-zero game.
How Big Is Your World?
I was really touched by this idea, and what it says about our culture:
And then it hits you that your mind and soul, until now, had been colonized. You had so completely relinquished the notion of ever demanding a better world, a better life for yourself and for those who suffer alongside you and more profoundly than you, that you would simply prefer that your imagination shut down entirely. Instead of occupying the spaces that cause you to feel pain, to be isolated, to be lonely, instead of believing that a better world can exist, you have hidden away from those spaces, pretended they didn’t exist, masked them with cheap wine and internet chat and downward dog.
From this essay which is partly about the Occupy Movement but more about getting engaged with the world and having a broader horizon of meaning in the world, rather than a complete focus on personal happiness.
Kutcher Gives Up 2 Things This Week.
Kutcher made a major faux pas on social media by tweeting about the Penn State situation, without knowing enough. Well, he’s had a hard week with the news about Mrs. Kutcher. And then decided to turnover management of his twitter account to an agency. For a guy who seems to get social, this makes no sense to me.
Today Kutcher — who’s TV’s biggest social media star — says he’s handing over the management of his account to the social marketing firm he co-founded. “While I will continue to express myself through @Aplusk, I’m going to turn the management of the feed over to my team at Katalyst Media to ensure the quality of it’s content,” he writes. “A collection of over 8 million followers is not to be taken for granted. I feel responsible for delivering an informed opinion and not spreading gossip or rumors through my twitter feed.”
More details here. We will each mess up cause this social thing is relatively new. We’re all neophytes in the social arena. In my opinion, we ought to learn how to do this stuff better, not give up our voice.