ary effort into nonpaid work. Some jobs are inherently unattractive, and no amount of creative reframing will convince the employee otherwise. But we would argue that most companies have sig- nificant degrees of freedom in this dimension, and they can change the balance between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards quite dramatically. For example, debugging software code can be a highly tedious task, so software developers such as Microsoft Corp. often hold “bug bash” competitions toward the end of a development project — capitalizing on the intrinsically competitive instinct of their work force. Winners receive recognition and prizes in such categories as “most bugs submitted,” “most interesting/unique bug” and “most critical” bug discovered. Coordinating Activities Most large companies are bureaucracies: They apply formal regulations and structures to ensure conformity of behavior and to generate consis- tent outputs. Notwithstanding the negative connotations associated with the word, bureau- cracy is a sound principle as long as the goals of the organization are efficiency, quality and waste reduction. 9 But if the goal is innovation or adapt- ability, bureaucracy gets in the way, and the alternative principle of emergence becomes valu- able. Emergence means, in essence, spontaneous coordination through the self-interested behav- iors of independent actors. 10 To illustrate the distinction between bureau- cracy and emergence in companies, consider the analogous world of town planning. Many carefully designed town centers have ended up in gridlock as planners have sought to impose order on the various requirements of cars, bicycles and pedes- trians. By trying to balance the needs for freedom of movement, efficient throughput and safety, they have ended up creating complicated systems that please no one.
86 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW WINTER 2009 Some cities, such as Drachten in the Nether- lands, have blown up these careful plans. Inspired by the ideas of traffic engineer Hans Monderman, the city’s planners took away the traffic lights, the pedestrian barriers, the road markings and the cycle lanes and created instead a “shared space” for all users of the road network. The result? Everyone quickly got used to being a bit more careful. Self- organizing took over from direct bureaucratic control. And not only did the safety record in Drachten remain high (no fatalities over seven years), but paradoxically, the speed of movement improved as well. 11 The parallels to the world of business are obvious: Under certain circumstances, the imposition of rules and procedures on a system will slow movement through it; individuals will usually figure out the best way to act if a decision is genuinely left up to them.
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