Tuesday, November 12, 2013

We Don’t Need No Stinkin Badges

We live in a culture that is actively unlearning the skill of discernment.  We let numbers and algorithms define people's skills and abilities, then we bestow an "approved" or "certified" patch on them so those who want to work with them can feel safe and justified in never applying their own discernment about whether this person indeed has the skill or is a good fit for the situation for which they need assistance.

I also contend, and a large body of research supports this, that people who are continually motivated to reach for and display the label, the star, the accolade, the title, and use that to define themselves, are people who have a hole in their self esteem. 

Transparency is a good thing.  Knowing someone has a skill is an area I need help in is incredibly useful.  However, when I see rows of medals and accolades, I start to question motivation.  Where is that person’s focus?  It is outward (how do others see me) or inward (how do I see me)?

Additionally, I believe that badges promote a focus on the individual, rather than on the group.  When so much of the work we do relies on working with and through others, why would we want to put so much focus on the greatness of the individual?  How does that benefit our real need of cooperation and collaboration?  It doesn’t.  It feeds and strengthens the opposite behavior. 

In behavior modification, when you want a particular behavior to go down in use and become extinct, you find a competing behavior to focus on that is incompatible with the one you want to make extinct.  To focus on the greatness of the individual, then expect collaboration is incompatible.  To focus on the greatness of algorithms that make decisions for you, then expect people to make their own decisions and be accountable for them is also incompatible.

How about creating some ways to recognize and reward collaboration and accountability?

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