Consciously Enforce Cooperative Social Norms

Larry Prusak, a former IBM executive who is now scholar in residence at Babson College, notes that some firms are consciously enforcing cooperative social norms. “Firms that encouraged opportunistic behavior and that thought performative ties were just ‘soft stuff’ have not done well,” he says, adding that companies can encourage cooperative behavior in two ways. “First, signals and symbols are important. If a firm promotes people who are uncooperative and self-serving, that’s a sign. Firms that get it reward people differently. BP, for instance, celebrated the ‘Best Stolen Idea.’ At GE, Jack Welch would ask, ‘Who else have you shown this idea to?’”

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