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"Bankers Are 'Only' Motivated By Money" (And Other Ways Organizations Domesticate Us)

Todd M. Warner

October 05, 2016

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"How do you shift the behaviour of bankers? This was the subject of a conversation. All of the people involved had considerably more experience in financial services than me, so their perspectives were particularly striking. The low point of the conversation happened when one of them said this: 'Bankers are only motivated by money. It is the only way we know how to get people in banking to do things.' Now, I know some bankers, and count a number of them as friends. Watching them at soccer games and birthday parties, I'm struck by the fact that they're not "only" motivated by money (unless that child with the dirty nappy was slipping them some cash on the side). But this conversation reveals a more vexing problem: Organizations domesticate people. Like Pavlov and his dogs, we are trained to discrete patterns of responses in organizations. It is not flattering, but I would propose it is a reality we don't understand, nor take advantage of: organizations domesticate people to certain ways of working. The problem of domestication in organizations sub-optimizes all kinds of performance and innovation. Through a combination of factors, organizations create 'goldfish tanks' with a certain mix of water that drives the behaviour of the 'fish' in their tanks."

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