I was at the India Business Conference organized by the kids at school a few weeks ago, and the afternoon keynote speaker was P.J. Nayak. The presentation was great, and the points he made were brilliant, as was the morning keynote by Prof. Rajan. I didn't really expect to be fascinated by the changes in Indian retail banking, but his presence, polish and use of data/facts ensured that I was.
However, this post isn't about the speech. It was something that the speaker mentioned in the Q&A. In response to a question on the quality of managers in the Indian public sector, he said the problem was that the government never recognized the need to provide incentives to their managers and that this was a possible explanation for their relatively inferior performance.
At any business school, but especially Chicago, that's the way we're trained to think: provide the right incentives for people and people will do the right things; without the right incentives since humans act only in their self-interest, the project has a high chance of failure. This "self-interest" notion underlies most economic theory. But I couldn't help thinking
- is that always really true?
- does it really apply to me?
- and is it particularly relevant for majority of the people in the organization (i.e. not the CXOs and super-senior management)?
- is there a cultural ethic which might affect this?
Working at a startup, stock options were a major part of my compensation. But would my attitude towards work have been very different if they weren't? I don't think so.
I was really more driven by a sense of responsibility and doing the job I was supposed to do well. I suppose part of it was fear as well, given the job market at the time I graduated...