Learning something we knew all along

Twice in recent days I’ve had that feeling of “yes, this is so true and I’ve known it’s true but somehow I’ve never heard it articulated so clearly until now.” Like Sociology 101.

Case #1: How we respond to disasters

Rebecca Solnit in her book A Paradise Built in Hell debunks the long-prevailing opinion–at least among those in power– that disaster response should focus on controlling mass hysteria and illegal behavior.

I don’t know about you but in my experience people step up and come together for each other in the face of disaster. (Think about the ice storm of ’98, or the days following 9-11-01.)

Solnit is a featured speaker in the SLU Writers Series, this Thursday, 8 pm, in the  Sykes Common Room. She’ll also join us on the air this Friday at 11 to talk about human response to disaster–and the disaster experience as a community builder. You’ll want to join this hour-long conversation even if you haven’t read her book.


Case #2: Money doesn’t buy great work

I happened to catch the tail end of a TED talk by career analyst Dan Pink called “the puzzle of motivation.” I paid attention because he was funny, interesting, and I’m the station manager here, allegedly responsible for motivating the staff.

AMP. I drummed this acronym into my head because it made so much sense to me.  In a nutshell, what research has shown (and I urge you to check out the talk for more details on that research) is that productivity is NOT related to monetary bonuses: that’s not to say a fair salary isn’t important, but additional financial awards may actually decrease productivity and creativity. This applies most powerfully to people working in non-repetitive jobs.

These three workplace conditions drive the highest levels of performance: autonomy, mastery and purpose. AMP. Oh heck, just check out the video. You knew this was true, but Dan Pink says it better than I’ve ever heard it said before.


So what’s the connection between these two thinkers? Seems to me they both give us a positive take on human nature and human communities. Kind of refreshing these days.

How about you? Learn something “you knew all along” recently? Share it here.

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1 Comment on “Learning something we knew all along”

  1. Ken Hall says:

    Although not from my experiences, it is my perception that the reasoning behind a “focus on controlling mass hysteria and illegal behavior” is perpetuated by those representing the business interests in the affected localities. The American business mentality appears to be oriented such that rather than availing themselves of supplies which might increase their likelihood of survival, for which they had no capability to pay, desperate folks should simply succumb. Desperate/abandoned people in New Orleans, after Katrina devastated the city, broke into stores to obtain food, water and sundries. Some took advantage and removed higher end electronics and what ever; those were the incidents that the MSM displayed ad nauseum video clips of on their, so called news, sites.

    As I recall during the severe flooding of a couple years back in Vermont and North Eastern NY, when Tropical Storm Irene paid an unwelcome visit, the folks affected were additionally subjected to price gouging when procuring desperately needed gasoline. American business making money the old fashioned way.

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