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Working for Love

I like the sound of the book Obliquity by John Kay as reviewed in today’s WSJ here, because it makes clear what is obvious to anyone who loves what they do.

From the WSJ Review:

The idea here is that the best way for a business to maximize profits is not to seek to maximize profits. Mr. Kay’s ?argument, which owes much to the economist Robert Frank, goes as follows. Consumers will purchase from your business, or employees will go the extra mile to contribute to your success, only if they believe that you care about their interests. The best way to establish that you care is to show that you can place their ?interests ahead of your own. In a recession, for ?instance, you take the hit and avoid layoffs. Then your workers will go to bat for you, giving you a 110% effort.

But, as Mr. Kay notes, something more is required. Even if you know that keeping workers on the payroll will elicit their over-the-top effort, the hope of gaining their over-the-top effort cannot be your motive for keeping them on the payroll. If your employees think that you care not about them but rather about the 110%, they won’t oblige you by working harder. ?Paradoxically, then, to gain the 110% you must ?demonstrably not care about it.

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