LSE Research | Nava Ashraf on Altruistic Capital

that sense of dissonance that so many employees might feel within their organizations so it's a lack of coherence between what they want their lives to be about and what is actually happening in the workplace we no longer want to bifurcate our lives and to separate our lives and to you know work is to create to make money and family is to have some meaning and some love in our lives and maybe we go to a church and religious to be able to feel some connection with transcendence and purpose and meaning and we don't want to have work that doesn't have meaning you know we tend to think in economics that the main source of motivation for all of us is self-interest it's not from the benevolence of the butcher baker that we get our dinner but from their regard to their self-interest that's what we teach in our economics classes that's what we understand is the basis of our models but the same person who'd said that you know the father of Homo economicus Adam Smith started his second book Theory of Moral Sentiments with the quote that howsoever selfish a man maybe there is a principle in his nature that concerns him with the benefit of others and renders their happiness necessary to him what if there is this principle in our nature how do we connect people to that social impact that they're having and allow them to feel the happiness that they might feel from serving others in economics we think ok there are different types of people potentially you know there's people who are more altruistic or less altruistic and then I'm faced with certain incentives on the job in my family etc and that makes me behave in more or less altruistic ways but the idea that how I behave today will then start to affect how I behave tomorrow and the next month for example and then the following year and that I could become change my type basically from a more selfish person to a more altruistic person capital is something that requires a costly investment now that pays off in the future right that's how we save to create financial capital for example we invest in financial capital which has returns we think about investing in human capital which has returns later on the job market a kind of costly decision to educate ourselves what we think actually constitutes altruistic capital is the investment in altruistic acts which subsequently have returns for us the more that we engage in ultra-stick acts the easier they may be in the future the more altruistic capital we have that's something that we haven't really explored in economics but of course is at the heart of most of moral philosophy of many of religions and now in what we think in in neuroscience this idea that actions form character because they're repeated this idea that we are what we repeatedly do it's something that one develops through constant practice and that accumulates in a sense of development within us just as capital accumulates that puts a lot of responsibility on of course us as individuals but also I would argue people who are designing incentives and work environments but you can also see it the other way that people could come into organisations with some degree of ultra-stick capital whatever it is and they could feel it depleted little by little as they feel disconnected from their opportunity to create social impact from the meaning of their work from their opportunity to contribute anything done in the spirit of service can provide a contribution to society banking for example which we think of as a notoriously selfish industry is actually doing a massive service to society by allocating capital to productive activity to be really connected to that contribution to individuals who are able to create productive activity to the jobs that are created to the community development that can arise we don't tend to think about bankers being motivated by that but indeed some of our research has shown that in fact they very much are and that that could be leveraged so part of the idea of altruistic capital is that individuals with this desire to serve can start to build something within themselves that the organization that they're part of is helping them build that then can contribute constantly both to their own happiness and to what they're offering society through their own accumulation of altruistic capital and through the way in which that ultra-stick capital that individualistic capital aggregates within the organization you

2 thoughts on “LSE Research | Nava Ashraf on Altruistic Capital

  • I appreciate the aspirations … Down right reality is that … Well you know … however, very glad, at least some one is looking into from an Economics view

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