Friday, July 11, 2008

The bad news about good work

Big Ideas is a TVO lectures program that is accessible through the internet in video as well as audio. The audio is published as podcast and thus I get to pick various lectures. What I have found is that most of the time, one is not missing out on too many visuals and the podcast works quite well.

The lecture by Howard Gardner has a few visuals at the beginning which may make you feel shut out a bit, but from what I have seen in TVO's video stream, it is not so visible on there either and eventually, the visuals are abandoned altogether and we are presented an excellent lecture about the mind set we need for the future. (This lecture build largely on a recent book by Gardner: Five minds for the Future.)

Gardner calls them five minds, I am inclined to call the five principles, but no matter how you call it, the proposal is to have an integrated mind which succeeds in balancing these five qualities: The Disciplinary Mind (a honed, crafty mind), The Synthesizing Mind (a mind that understands and combines ideas), The Creating Mind (a mind of renewal), The Respectful Mind (a mind appreciative of the other) and The Ethical Mind (a mind inclined to the good). Gardner has done a lot of research on how people work and hence he applies these principles on work, calling it good work. It is in many ways an optimistic lecture, thinking in terms of what we can achieve, but there is one element I'd like to pick up and that is, unfortunately, the negative finding. The bad news about good work as it were.

In the bad news we see how those five principles, are not as easily balanced as we might think. This is shown in research when you ask people whether they want to work (live) ethically and ask why they don't even if they want to. The problem they perceive is that ethics gives them a disadvantage and will give their peers the edge in the rat race within society. And that piece of bad news is a very big problem for our culture to solve.

Previously on Big Ideas:

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