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Title: The Moral Instinct and Organizational Excellence - An American Perspective
Date: 26-Jun-2010
Category: Opinion Essays
Source/Author: N. Doran Hunter, Research Fellow, Caux Round Table
Description: Thomas Jefferson, in a 1787 letter to Peter Carr, made a profound observation about human nature that only now is being verified by neuroscience and behavioral genetics studies. Man is, Jefferson wrote, a social animal and is “endowed with a sense of right and wrong.” If one would “State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor … the former [would] decide it well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules.” Today neurobiologists and psychologists are scientifically confirming Jefferson’s observation by demonstrating that human beings are “hard wired” to make initial moral judgments without knowing why they are making them and then using reason to support their judgments. The content of such judgments seems to be an emotional human need to treat others as one wishes to be treated. It seems that David Hume was correct: reason is the slave of human emotions. Could this human predisposition to act morally in most situations explain why 95% of business arrangements and other forms of negotiable agreements and understandings are carried out with honesty, fairness and probity?

Thomas Jefferson, in a 1787 letter to Peter Carr, made a profound observation about human nature that only now is being verified by neuroscience and behavioral genetics studies. Man is, Jefferson wrote, a social animal and is “endowed with a sense of right and wrong.” If one would “State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor … the former [would] decide it well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules.” Today neurobiologists and psychologists are scientifically confirming Jefferson’s observation by demonstrating that human beings are “hard wired” to make initial moral judgments without knowing why they are making them and then using reason to support their judgments. The content of such judgments seems to be an emotional human need to treat others as one wishes to be treated. It seems that David Hume was correct: reason is the slave of human emotions. Could this human predisposition to act morally in most situations explain why 95% of business arrangements and other forms of negotiable agreements and understandings are carried out with honesty, fairness and probity?
If one looks at the evolving corpus of organizational behavior studies it seems the concept of human nature is not far away. During the latter part of the 19th Century and the first part of the 20th Century, as the industrial age reached its zenith and organizational structures became more complex, some leaders of these elaborate and often impenetrable organizations began to think about how to manage the workers who labored within them. Frederick Winslow Taylor, author of Principles of Scientific Management (1911), on the basis of work experience and observation, believed that workers inherently disliked work and must be told what to do by managers who had scientifically determined the most efficient way to do it. Chester I. Barnard, in his important book The Function of the Executive ((1938), stated that organizations are simply systems of human communication and cooperation in service to a stated mission and goals. He believed that organizational efficiency could be achieved if the organization would fulfill the aspirations of workers while they actualized the mission and goals of the organization. In other words, the views about human nature in the work place had changed over a 30-year period.
With the industrial age coming to an end as the 20th Century progressed, and with the post-industrial and communication-digital ages beginning, new concepts and theories about human nature in the work place began to emerge. Automation and robotization in manufacturing, growth in the retail and financial service areas, and the exponential growth in public service jobs, prompted profound changes in the American economy and required a new and more educated work force, accompanied by a new kind of work ethic and managed by a new kind of “effective executive.” Recognizing these great changes in organizations Abraham Maslow, a social psychologist, helped develop the field of “human motivation” studies.” The central idea of the field was that human beings were motivated by certain needs, which were hierarchically ordered. Lower level (physiological, safety, and social) needs would have to be met by an employer before higher level (self-esteem and self actualization) needs could be operationalized. With the operationalization of self-esteem and self-actualization needs in complex modern organizations, Maslow wrote, the elevated characteristics of human nature would become pre-eminent: workers would become more self directed, confident, creative, problem solving oriented, accept responsibility and acknowledge facts better, would become more concerned about the moral aspects of the organization’s activities, and would also tend to respect the work of others. The question social psychologists and organizational theorists asked was how these higher characteristics of human nature could be put to work in service to the mission, goals, and intricacies of modern complex organizations.
If we amalgamate the Jeffersonian view that human beings are “endowed with the sense of right and wrong” and have a predisposition to choose the right, along with the Bernard-Maslow concept that human beings can be motivated by aspirations, self-esteem and self-actualization in the work place, then there exists a paradigm for what organization theorists call high performing or “excellent organizations.” In the next section of this essay I will summarize the findings of an 18th Century Scottish Enlightenment thinker, and some neuroscientists and behavioral geneticists, concerning the moral instinct that seems to pervade human nature and how these scientific findings support the possibility that organizations can be not only effective and efficient, but also exhibit a moral dimension. In the third section of this essay I will endeavor to summarize the research of many social scientists and organizational theorists who are looking for those characteristics or attributes of “excellent organizations” that reflect a realistic view of human nature in the modern work place and also seem to be critical for organizational mission and goal completion. The final section of this essay will attempt to draw some conclusions suggesting that there is a direct connection between the human instinct for moral behavior and the characteristics or attributes of high performing or excellent organizations.
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Without going into the details of the intellectual battle between those scholars who think human nature is made of plastic and silly putty to be molded by the social, political and economic forces of society, and those who think that the human mind possesses an innate architecture that predisposes mankind to certain types of behavior patterns; perhaps a good place to start is with Adam Smith, the great 18th Century Scottish Enlightenment thinker, who believed that all long-term and successful institutions reflected the actions of human beings who were morally self-willing, morally self-responsible, individually free, worked in a harmonious marketplace, and lived in functioning communities. Smith, in his historic book The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), wrote that nature had given to mankind an instinctive predisposition towards virtuous forms of behavior, among the most important of which were: sympathy (to be affected by the feelings of others); fairness (treating others as one wishes to be treated); self-control (moderating bodily appetites); and, duty (uncoerced honoring of obligations). Smith subscribed to the notion that these attributes or characteristics were the natural embodiment of human beings and that successful institutions needed to mirror these essential chacteristics of human nature if they were to survive for the long-term. 
Today, neuroscientists have replaced Adam Smith’s term “sympathy” with the term “empathy” (to share and understand the emotions of others). Through natural selection the human brain has been “hard wired” to sense and empathize with the feelings and emotions of others. David Linden, Professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, has written that “Both humans and our hominid and pre-hominid ancestors lived in social groups so it is not surprising that our sensory systems appear to have some particular specialization for social interaction.” The sense of empathy seems to be beyond our control and has been programmed into our brains. We naturally empathize with the child who has just lost his or her mother or father, or feel a sense of sadness and empathy with the accident victim who is in great pain and suffering the anguish of a loved one dead at the accident site. We also empathize with the bride and groom who, at their wedding, weep with great joy, and we feel the adulation of an audience who just heard a great rendition of a Mozart piano concerto.
Where does this sense of empathy come from? During the 1980s and the 1990s Giacomo Rizzolatti of the University of Parma, using FMRI and EEG technology, discovered and named “mirror neurons” in Macaque monkeys. Mirror neurons are neurons that fire both “when an animal acts and when an animal observes the same action performed by another animal. Thus, the neuron ‘mirrors’ the behavior of the other animal, as though the observer were itself acting.” V.S. Ramachadran of the Center for Brain and Cognition, University of Californian, San Diego, has studied mirror neurons in human beings and believes these neurons are critical to understanding how we empathize with others. Studies show that “These neurons are scattered throughout of our brain – the premotor cortex and the centers for language, empathy and pain – and fire not only as we perform a certain action but also when we watch someone else perform that action.” Mirror neurons help children learn “facial expressions and physical maneuvers through imitation.” All actions that we watch we also repeat in our minds, we “mentally rehearse or imitate every action we witness, whether it is a somersault or a subtle smile, talk, walk, dance or play tennis.” Mirror neurons fire when we read a story and can feel and empathize with the character in the story. The existence of such neurons suggest a “biological dynamic for our understanding of others, the complex exchange of ideas we call culture, and the psychosocial dysfunction ranging from the lack of empathy to autism.”  
Mirror neurons are found in the premotor cortex, the inferior and posterior parietal lobes, the superior temporal sulcus, and the insula areas of the brain – all areas that are associated with perception and the human capacity to sense and understand someone else’s feelings and emotions. Daniel Goleman, a
psychologist and a founder of the field of social neuroscience, in two important books Emotional Intelligence (1995) and Social Intelligence (2007), has argued that the brain, through mirror neurons, is regularly reacting to the environment and is also changing based on the people around us. “Mirror neurons are a kind of neural wi-fi that monitors what is happening in the other people. This system tracks their emotions, what movements they make, what they intend and it activates, in our brains, precisely the same brain areas as are active in the other person. This puts us on the same wavelength and it does so automatically, instantly and unconsciously.” In other words, we can predict the actions of other people, and understand their intentions, beliefs and desires. Goleman concludes: “The evolutionary value of this is that people can anticipate the actions of others in a way that helps them.”
Understanding the emotion of empathy is most important to the functioning of complex modern organizations. Managing the “knowledge worker” in these elaborate and complicated private and public sector organizations requires a new kind of management decision-making structure, based on an understanding between management and the worker. Goleman in both of his books lays out a four-part scheme that involves workers understanding managers and the other way around. Managers and workers should, through the emotion of empathy, understand (feel) what the other is sensing and learn to manage these internal feelings or sentiments. With this kind of knowledge, then, the worker and manager can become aware of his or her organizational surroundings and with more sophistication manage relationships in the workplace essential to goal attainment. As neuroscientists have made plain through dozens of studies, human beings can readily read each other’s minds (the theory of mind) and this natural trait can be used to manage the workplace to the benefit of the total organizational arrangement. How could an understanding of empathy improved the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization, and create a culture of personal and professional morality operating within the confines of the organization? 
Neuroscientists are linking the emotion of empathy with the emotion of trust (to have faith and confidence in the reliability and actions of someone else). Trust is an absolute requisite for any successful and enduring community, business organization, government, religious organization, or neighborhood. Francis Fukuyama, a social scientist, has written that trust “is the unspoken, unwritten bond between fellow citizens that facilitates transactions, empowers individual creativity, and justifies collective action.” Cognitive neuroscientists, using new imaging techniques, have demonstrated through numerous studies that the human brain is “hard wired” to trust, at least initially, the actions of other people. Richard Dawkins, a behavioral geneticist, clearly states that natural selection led early human beings to form loyalty groups for purposes of survival. For children to survive in a hostel world it was necessary for them to believe whatever their parents or tribal leaders would tell them. Such trusting credulity and obedience were critical for survival and necessary for the creation of group institutions that would survive generationally. Credulity is the road to trust but trust requires human beings to understand the intentions of others. It is through empathy that human beings can determine the intentions of those around them, to the extent that orders of intentionality permit us to dig deeply into what others are thinking and how their thoughts might impact our thoughts and actions.
Adam Smith was on to something important when he wrote that sympathy (empathy) was an instinctive predisposition towards virtuous forms of behavior and essential to the formation of the morally self-willing and responsible individual human being. Abraham Maslow determined that individual self-confidence, professional creativity, a problem solving orientation, and concern about the moral aspects of an organizations’ activities are the outcomes when the workforce is emotionally and intellectually piloted by the need for self-esteem (personal and professional confidence in organizational performance, and peer respect) and self-actualization (a sense that one’s actions are moral and that personal talents and abilities are being used to the fullest). Neuroscientists are reporting that credulity, trust and empathy are parts of the same package and that we have the natural capacity to know and to understand each other. These attributes are necessary for any organization, whether a community, business, religion, or government, to successfully exist for any period of time. With Adam Smith’s description of sympathy, and the new neuroscience of empathy, the idea of a human moral instinct is beginning to show its colors.
Adam Smith’s second human instinct leading to virtuous forms of behavior, and of great importance for the flourishing of any institution, is fairness (treating others as one wishes to be treated). Behavioral geneticists and game theorists are finding that the sense or instinct for fairness is a natural attribute of the human condition. Researchers have often raised the question about the origins of our natural sense of fairness. Is the answer to be found in culture, religion, experience, or is there a genetic or evolutionary answer to the question? Sarah Brosnan, an evolutionary biologist and anthropologist, has suggested that the human preoccupation with being treated fairly by others has an evolutionary foundation. In studying brown Capuchin monkeys, genetically close to human beings, she and her colleagues found an advanced sense of fairness that led to strong social bonds and some cooperative behavior regarding food gathering and sharing. When, through a series of experiments, the monkeys were treated fairly future cooperation was assured, socially discordant behavior decreased, and group activity increased. On the other hand, when the monkeys were treated unfairly (giving food to some and not to others for similar work) no cooperation occurred, the monkey community was discordant, and group life diminished. These activities sound like human reactions to being treated unfairly. 
Marc Hauser, a widely published Harvard University neuroscientist, has proposed that the human sense or instinct for fairness assumes the practice of reciprocity (I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine). It is only fair that when I give you a $5.00 loan you will pay it back, if I give you a piece of my apple you will give me a piece of your orange, that someone crashing a long movie line will be called out, and if your neighbor borrows your lawn mower he will give it back. Evolutionary biologists are also reporting that along with the senses or instincts for fairness and reciprocity there are the senses or instincts for benevolence, generosity, altruism, and cooperation. Why do we do something for someone else when asked? When someone is apparently in trouble, why is there a natural desire to help? Why are there so many Good Samaritans around at the site of an automobile accident? Why do human beings often give their own lives to save the lives of total strangers? One way to explain this human predisposition to treat others fairly and to be generous, benevolent, altruistic and cooperative is to study the research produced by many neurobiologists and game theorists.
William D. Hamilton, late Royal Society Research Professor at Oxford University, in a series of important papers on the evolution of social behavior, has demonstrated that the attributes of fairness, generosity and altruism, which lead to cooperation, have developed in hominids over the eons of time. His research argues that, through natural selection and genetic adaptation, those individual hominids, who for whatever reason, cooperated with and acted altruistically towards community members, left many more descendents than others. He postulated that there is a gene that promotes fairness, generosity and altruism, but initially it operated successfully only in kinship groups and then spread to all community members. Hamilton created a rule, called the Hamilton rule, “for predicting the predisposition towards {how} a given altruistic act is likely to evolve: Rb>C.” Olivia Judson, an evolutionary biologist who teaches at the Imperial College of London, has best explained this rule: “Genes that promote the altruistic act will spread if the benefit (B) that the act bestows is high enough to outweigh the act’s cost (C) to the altruist. Cost and benefit are both measured in nature’s currency: children.” This obviously means that the natural human senses or instincts for fairness, benevolence, generosity, altruism and cooperation evolved so that the benefits to the altruist and the recipient would be equal or more beneficial to both. These naturally selected instincts were by-products of the communities’ need for security, food output, and institutional development. Those human groups that became more “cohesive, unified, caring groups, {were} better able to triumph over their more disunited rivals,” and thus able to “leave more descendents.” The group gene became the universal community gene. 
One other example might be helpful in demonstrating the natural human predisposition to treat others as you wish to be treated (fairness). The California Institute of Technology neuroscientist and game theorist Collin Camerer, in the book Behavior Game Theory (2003), has concluded, through a number of game experiments, that the sense of fairness is one of the most important aspects of human behavior and critical to the functioning of a successful society. One game, the Ultimatum Game, plays out as follows: In this two partner game, one partner (A) is given $100.00 to divided as he sees fit with partner (B). Whatever the division of the $100.00 by partner (A), if partner (B) accepts it, both will be richer by that amount. If partner (B) rejects the offer then both players of the game receive nothing. If partner (A) suggests $90.00 for himself and $10.00 for partner (B), both would be richer by that amount. If partner (B) is a rational, self-interested, utility maximizing, and free willing partner, he will not turn down a free $10.00. However, after hundreds of applications of the game, it has become clear to game theorists who practice this particular game, that any division where partner (B) receives less than $30.00, with partner (A) keeping $70.00 or more, will be rejected by partner (B). Since partner (B) is receiving free money why would in almost all cases partner (B) not take anything less than the proffered $30.00? In interviews and questionnaires most partner (B) respondents answered in unison – because it isn’t fair! The researchers have concluded that the demands of reciprocal altruism and fairness require that the exchange partners be treated fairly. I will scratch your back if you will scratch mine. Exchange partnerships work only if partner (B) knows he or she will be treated with something close to parity. In other words, the moral sense of fairness is “hard wired” into our brains and is an emotion human beings seem to share with all primates.
The moral dimensions of fairness, altruism, benevolence, generosity and cooperation are compelling, and as researchers continue to probe the human genome, and game theorists create and practice their applied mathematical schemes, the utility of these human attributes becomes consequential for successful social, political and economic institutions. Adam Smith, using the methodology of observation and reason, came to the same conclusions as contemporary social and biological scientists using imaging techniques and sophisticated computers – namely, that nature has predisposed human beings towards virtuous forms of behavior and these behavior patterns lead to cooperative social, economic, and political arrangements. Of course, all of these emotions can be overridden by the rational elements of the brain and thus circumvent these personal and communitarian human emotions that can lead to successful institutions and communities. The human quality that can mitigate the former and enhance the latter is that of self-control.
Adam Smith’s third instinctive human predisposition that leads to virtuous forms of behavior is self-control (moderating bodily appetites) and is essential for a thriving and buoyant society. When one thinks about self-control the usual idea is that reason controls emotions: reason controlling anger, sexual attraction, jealousy, envy, avarice, etc. Neuroscientists and behavioral geneticists, however, are discovering that a higher level of emotions is more suggestive of self-control than is reason. Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga, in his informative book Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique (2008), demonstrates that human beings have an instinctual “intuitive sense” that effects their moral decisions. This instinctive sense, which is a product of our evolutionary past, enables human beings to control themselves and to create the kind of institutions that will bring peace and security to the community. In other words the state and its culture, and all of their institutional manifestations, are simply reflections of various higher-level emotions that naturally lead most human beings to control themselves and those around them.
Most would agree with Michael Gazzaniga that “Social exchange is the glue that holds societies together, and it is emotions that hold social exchange together.” The emotions that describe the moral instinct are related to “reciprocal altruism” (you do for me and I will do for you). For any kind of social exchange to be productive the parties involved have to abide by the negotiated agreements (contracts, wills, deeds, etc.) that they enter into. Our emotional makeup, as Gazzaniga writes, leads us to “engage in reciprocity with those we trust, and we trust those who reciprocate.” Those who do not reciprocate are labeled as “cheaters”, and not only do the cheated feel one set of emotions, but those who cheat feel a different set of emotions. These two sets of emotions are the bedrock for both self-control, on the one hand, and community control of individuals, on the other. Our emotional blueprint, Gazzaniga suggests, leads us to create societies that authorize moral and legal rules that reward the honest and punish the cheater.
Some of the moral emotions associated with social exchange and reciprocity are: empathy, guilt, shame, embarrassment, contempt, and anger. Empathy helps us understand the other persons’ dilemma and the exchange is that “I will be of assistance, if you like.” Guilt is felt when one breaches a community standard of conduct that harms another person, or a sense of culpability because of certain actions where one feels inadequate and disappointed, with the exchange being activities to make the harmed person whole and removing the sense of inadequacy by becoming more competent. Shame is “violating social norms” and knowing that other people are watching and are shocked at ones’ activities or expressions. This emotion usually leads one to withdraw from the group to which one belongs and to “hide” from the community, with the exchange being the rectification of ones’ activities and the resolve to abide by the norms of the group. Gazzaniga goes on to describe the emotion of embarrassment and he states that it “is often felt around people of higher status {and} it motivates one to present oneself properly and show respect for those in authority, thus avoiding conflict with more powerful individuals, increasing the odds of survival.” For those who cheat and who do not follow the norms and rules of the community the emotion of contempt is expressed by shunning and criticism by members of the community, with the exchange being apologies and an effort to regain the communities’ respect. Anger is the emotion felt by community members when punishing cheaters; “it is a reaction to unfairness” and can lead to various forms of punishment. These moral emotions are necessary for successful social exchange and altruistic reciprocity, and are the glue like elements that bind members of a community together and lead to successful institutions.
Another set of ideas that helps to understand Adam Smith’s third human predisposition that leads to virtuous forms of behavior is based on research done by anthropologist Donald Brown, in his ground breaking book Human Universals (1991), and by evolutionary psychologist Michael Shermer, in his book The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales From Evolutionary Economics (2009). Both of these scientists are reporting that, on the basis of their research, there are some 373 universal moral emotions, of which 202 (54%) are directly related to individual moral conduct and are vital to the social, political, and economic success of the community. For example: affection (necessary for altruism and cooperation), attachment (necessary for friendship and mutual aid), crying (expression of grief and moral pain), generosity admitted (reward for cooperative and altruistic behavior), judging others (foundation for approval-disapproval), conflict resolution (foundation of much moral behavior), and, turn taking (conflict prevention). The point here is that these universal moral emotions drive human beings into communities, it is universal moral emotions that create functioning social arrangements and that push for economic systems that lead to successful polities, and it is universal moral emotions that allow human beings to make judgments about right and wrong, good and bad, and what is moral and immoral. The moral emotions associated with social exchange and altruistic reciprocity, and the 373 universal moral emotions that engender self-control and are reflected in the controlling institutional arrangements of any society, seem to shepherd human beings into societies that do have the possibility of functioning for the long-term.
Finally, Adam Smith’s fourth instinctive human predisposition that leads to virtuous forms of behavior is duty (uncoerced honoring of obligations). Duty, obligation and responsibility are by definition tied together in many ways and, of course, scholars spend years and use reams of paper distinguishing among these important terms. But in essence the word is used by Adam Smith, and also by neuroscientists and game theorists, to mean a sense or emotion that human beings feel to honor or keep the promises made to family, community groups, one’s professional life, organizations of various types; and, the obligations one undertakes to perform tasks, engage in personal conduct of different sorts, and to offer services to others, either personally or legally. Certainly the human emotions of empathy, fairness and self-control are of importance for the proper functioning of the emotion of duty. When promises are made the emotion of empathy helps us understand what others are thinking about our execution of the promise; the sense of fairness we all possess activates our desire to keep our promises as we expect others to keep theirs; and, the emotion of self-control, and its promoters (guilt, embarrassment, shame, etc.), all drive human beings to perform duties most of the time. The question is: beyond the philosophical, theological and historical musings about the term, concept or emotion of duty, can there be a scientific explanation for the human inclination or impulse to keep promises made and to do one’s duty?
The key to understanding the emotion of duty is to consider, again, the natural human emotion to trust others (have faith and confidence in the reliability and actions of someone else), at least initially. Why do human beings, when meeting someone for the first time, have a tendency to speak frankly about all things personal and otherwise; why do we sign legal agreements with the assumption the other party will fulfill their promises; why do couples enter the marriage arrangement with expectations that vows taken will be honored; why do employees of business organizations, in the main, abide by the employment contract; why do consumers trust the quality of the products they buy, until that trust is violated; and, why does a citizenry, at least until proven wrong, place trust in government services? In all of these cases, trust is the emotion that comes before the emotion of duty. Without trust in the other person, or the institution, duty will not be voluntarily exercised, and tasks will be completed only under some form of coercion. With trust not violated the emotion of duty becomes volitional and thus a virtuous form of behavior.
Cognitive scientists, using imaging techniques, have demonstrated that the human brain is “hard wired” to trust, at least initially, the thoughts and actions of other people. Researchers are uncovering how the human brain determines when to trust someone else, and they are now finding that an ancient and simple molecule made in the brain - oxytocin - plays a major role in the process. Oxytocin is a short protein, or neuropeptide, which is compose of nine amino acids, and is produced in the following areas of the brain: subgenual area of the anterior cingulate, the hypothalamus, the nucleus accumbens, and the amygdala. These brain structures share three features: they have dense fields of oxytocin receptors, which convey oxytocin’s messages to nerve cells; they control emotions and social behavior; and they modulate midbrain dopamine release, which makes people feel good and so rewards and reinforces specific behaviors. Researchers are finding that in social, political and economic settings where personal security and safety are provided, and where life, health, prosperity, justice and education are protected and promoted, are the very settings in which oxytocin levels in tested subjects are the highest. There is a vast body of data on this point.
In order to see what behaviors trigger the production of oxytocin, and therefore raise or decrease levels of oxytocin in the brain, neuroscientists Paul J. Zak and Rorbert Kurzban of the Claremont Graduate University designed the Trust Game, which has been replicated hundreds of times during the last few years. The game is played as follows: subjects are recruited who earn $10 each if they agree to spend 90 minutes with the researcher. The researcher assigns the participants randomly into pairs in which the two do not see or communicate directly with each other. Each pair is asked to make decisions about sharing money with their partner.
In each pair, one person is designated subject 1 and the other subject 2. Both persons in the pair are told how the game works. First, subject 1 is prompted by a computer to decide whether to send some of the $10 participation payment to the other person. That amount is tripled in an account for subject 2. If subject 1 decides to part with $6, for example, subject 2 will end up with $28 (6X3+10=$28), and subject 1 will be left with $4. In the next step, the computer informs subject 2 of the money transfer and allows that person to return some amount of that money to subject 1, with the proviso that none needs to be sent back and the assurance that the participants’ identities and decisions will remain confidential. Whatever money subject 2 returns is debited from subject 2’s account on a one to one basis. No deception is permitted and payments are actually made based on these choices. Immediately after the participants make their decisions they are asked to provide blood samples so the researcher can measure oxytocin levels.
Researchers agree that the initial transfer of money measures trust, whereas the return transfer of money gauges trustworthiness. They found that about 85% of the time subject 1 game players sent some money to their partners. Of the partners who received the money, 98% then went on to return some money to subject 1 players. Interestingly, participants typically could not articulate why they were trusting or being trustworthy. But the researchers suspect that being trusted by subject 1s’ would induce an oxytocin rise in the brains of subject 2s’, and that subject 2s’ who received even greater sums from subject 1s’ would experience greater rises in oxytocin levels. Also, when subject 2s’ sent more money back to subject 1s’ their oxytocin levels would likely rise, concomitantly. Receiving a signal of trust appears to make people feel positive about strangers who have trusted them. It seems that oxytocin is the communitarian neuropeptide. It is the brain molecule that binds individuals, families, clans, tribes, larger communities, and national states together. With trust being a natural instinct, and duty having a direct relationship to trust, perhaps there is some kind of relationship between successful institutions and these two natural attributes or characteristics of human nature.
In this section of the essay I have tried to demonstrate that Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith were correct in their assessment that human nature has a moral dimension. In bringing this idea forward into the 21st Century neuroscientists, behavioral geneticists, and game theorists have confirmed that human beings do seem to have a brain-based, emotional architecture that augers for choosing right over wrong, good over bad, and the moral over the immoral. The question is whether these emotional attributes can be used in service to effective and efficient organizations, and also give a moral caste to organizational activities? Can the
emotion of sympathy (empathy) engender institutional integrity, mission and goal achievement, a taste for personal ethical behavior, and a smooth running workplace? Can the emotion of fairness, and the practice of reciprocal altruism with its associated emotions (benevolence, generosity, cooperation), fashion an organizational environment where morally self-willing, morally self-responsible, and individually free persons can produce a harmonious workplace? Can the emotion of self-control, with its stable of attendant emotions (guilt, shame, embarrassment, contempt, anger), which establishes social exchange within a society or an institution, advance the legitimate interests of those structures? Finally, how does an institution or organization of whatever form inspire a management team and a workforce to have faith and confidence in the actions of each other and to honor respective duties without considerable coercion and intimidation? There is a body of research that has been growing over the last 40 years suggesting that there are institutions in the United States that are organized to take advantage of the attributes of human nature laid out in this essay. These organizations, both in the public and private sectors, have been labeled as “excellent” and their attributes and characteristics are examined in the next section of this essay.
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Most would agree that an excellent organization is one that attains its defined mission and goals with efficiency and effectiveness, within a framework of legal and moral rules, while improving the general welfare of the society in which it operates. During the 1970’s and 80’s many organization theorists and social scientists begin identifying the characteristics and traits of large, complex organizations that seemed to fit this definition of an excellent organization. These studies culminated in the well-received book by Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman, In Search of Excellence (1982), wherein the authors, after studying many private sector organizations, laid out those characteristics that seemed to separate poor from excellent performing organizations. Prior to the publication of In Search of Excellence, many researchers had looked at what made an organization more successful, and a suggestive list of the more important contributions to this field might include: Richard Beckhard, Organizational Development: Strategies and Models (1969), Jay Galbraith, Designing Complex Organizations (1973), Andre Delbecq, Andrew Van de Ven and David Gustafson, Group Techniques for Program Planning (1975), Morgan McCall, Leadership: Where Else Can It Go (1978), Russell Ackoff, The Art of Problem Solving (1978), along with the hundreds of articles and research papers that accompany any similar effort.
From the 1980’s to the present time a number of well known organization theorists and social scientists have continued the effort to identify those traits in organizational structure, accompanied by managerial techniques, that can aid any organization in achieving mission and goals. A few of the more well-known researchers in this area of analysis would be: William Ouchi, Theory Z: How American Management Can Meet the Japanese Challenge (1981), John Naisbitt, Reinventing the Corporation: Transforming You and Your Company For the New Information Society (1985), Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith, The Wisdom of Teams: Creating High Performance Organizations (1993), James Champy and Michael Hammer, Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto For Business Revolution (1993), Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive Revised (2002), Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence 2007, and Warren Bennis, Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor (2008), along with the hundreds of articles and research papers that accompany any similar effort.
These research activities have produced a body of literature out of which have come some clearly defined characteristics and attributes of high performing or excellent organizations. In listing and discussing these principles one must keep in mind the many differences in the kinds and structures of organizations that have been examined: public-private sector, union-nonunion organizations; flat-hierarchical, blue-white collar organizations; manufacturing-information based organizations, etc. But even with these differences, the basic attributes derived from this body of expanding literature seem to apply to defining organizations that are excellent and those that are not.  
The first characteristic of every high performing organization is that they have a lucid, shared, felt vision of why they exist. The members of the organization have a common understanding, agreement and commitment to that purpose. The purpose (mission) is the primary focal point for the organization’s leadership, providing the basis for strategic decisions, allocation of resources, and giving meaning to daily activities.  
All excellent organizations encourage and support creativity and innovation in the leadership and the workforce. Organizational members are encouraged to experiment with new ideas and approaches. In high performing organizations the mission orders are to do it, try it, not overly analyze and complicate it, and then debate it to death. These organizations try to avoid analysis paralysis. The leadership and management philosophy is to get data, do it, then adjust it, rather than wait for the perfect plan.  
Feedback System
High performing organizations place great value on feedback. They create and maintain reliable, effective processes to ensure that the feedback is timely and accurate. The external focus has been characterized as “staying close to the customer” or “being efficacious” when delivering the social service, involves continuous assessment of the economic and social environment, and how the product or service is being received. Is the organization answering the mail? These organizations view the customer or client as integral parts of the organization, and there is a constant effort to promote self-assessment. These organizations know that they can be self-correcting when people listen and then take action where appropriate.
In excellent organizations the work is managed against clear, well-defined goals. These goals are based on the mission of the organization and from goals action initiatives (strategies) are derived. Goals and action initiatives become the basis of work, and organizational members are expected to develop their own action initiatives against those of the organization. They become the measures of individual and organizational performance, and are rewarded accordingly.
Leadership in high performing organizations is clear and strong, there is no fuzziness or uncertainty; rather, there is reliability and predictability. Leadership style often varies widely in different organizations, there is no one best style of leadership but, within an organization, it is remarkably consistent. Leadership is value based and consistently focuses the organization and its membership on these values and on the organization’s purpose. There is also a strong inspirational dimension to leadership and it tends to orient the organization to the future with less time spent the present (managers are hired to that.)
Excellent organizations develop and refine processes (planning, decision making, managing information, managing conflict, problem solving, etc.) to deal with their work and challenges. Rather than reacting to and solving present problems each time they arise, these organizations create processes to deal with them. These processes get use routinely, not just written up and placed in a binder somewhere. They are valued and used because they are simple, understood, and they work. The entire organization, not just the leadership and management, seems to have a process orientation, and it spends time on how things happen and how to make things happen better.
In excellent organizations communications, vertical and horizontal, internal and external, are open and clear. The organization and its leadership place great value on being able to tell it like it is, and that kind of communication is rewarded, formally and informally. People simply talk to each other, clearly and frequently. The work and work areas are designed so that people have direct access to each other. The communication processes are continuously assessed to ensure that they are working properly and when blockages occur they are immediately cleared. The leaders and managers spend a great deal of time talking with people, both inside and outside of the organization.
High performing organizations maintain tight control over two or three critical issues, prescribed by rigidly held and enforced business values or legal mandates. These mandates and values are managed intensely and are the principle focus for the senior leadership. The attention to customers, primacy of cost orientation, emphasis on quality, focus on innovation, requirements of a government regulator, legislative budget controls, are all examples. On the other hand these organizations are rather informal with lots of relaxed communications, easygoing get-togethers, and a great deal of room for individual initiative and autonomy. Much of the work is managed through goals; decision-making is pushed down at or near the sources of information; and organizational members are involved and participate in key decisions. Top leadership is concerned only with results and subordinates are charged with the responsibility to make things happen and to produce results.
Executives, managers and the workforce in excellent organizations understand the meaning and importance of interdependence, and act it out in the work place every day. There is a series of formal and informal attitudes and rewards that encourage and support teamwork, the kind of teamwork that is focused on task. The organization and its members tend to look at themselves as a system, with all of the pieces fitting and working together, and with the organization itself fitting nicely into the environment. Within the team there is a high clash of ideas, with the focus on tasks, problems and situations, not on the people within the organization. One reason why the team approach works is because the parts of the team are kept simple, lean, and staffs are kept small. The structural form of teams are kept simple, and temporary task forces are formed to deal with issues or problems as they arise, and then the task force is disbanded when the problem is solved.
High performing organizations place high value on people. Organization members are treated with dignity and integrity; they are listened to; they are acknowledged and recognized, and are rewarded for their work and contributions to the organization. They are actively and routinely involved in the decisions, which affect them and their work. The payoffs to leadership and the organization are highly motivated, very productive people, members who have pride, esprit, loyalty, and a sense of commitment to the team. They have a shared sense that somehow we are special.
Even though these principles have emerged from the study of scores of business and government organizations, it seems sensible not to list those that are reflective of these ten principles, mostly because while the principles tend to remain constant the application of them changes with the leadership and shifting circumstances of internal and external organizational environments. It also seems accurate to suggest that these principles of high performing organizations are simply reflections of human nature in the workplace. Can there be a connection between efficient, effective mission completion, within the framework of moral and legal rules, while improving the general welfare of the community, and the organizational arrangements and practices of these excellent organizations? Is there a relationship between the scientifically established human instinct for moral behavior, Adam Smith’s view that successful institutions are reflections of the human predisposition towards virtuous forms of behavior, and the characteristics and attributes of excellent organizations?
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Today, cultural values, as reflected in the workplace, are in the process of changing drastically, and many of these changes are expressions of the higher characteristics of human nature as discussed in Section 11 of this essay. For example, Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel, in their ground breaking book Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy (2005), have argued that during the 300 years of the Industrial Revolution the basic organizational values that guided production and distribution of goods and services were “bureaucratization, hierarchy, centralization of authority, secularization, specialization of task, and a shift from traditional to secular-rational values.” These organizational values required a workforce that carried into the work place a set of personal values: obedience to authority, specialized work skills, labor as a commodity, labor as distinct from management, gender differentiation, racial separation, etc. In the post-modern, communication-digital world of the 21st Century, basic organizational values that guide the production and distribution of goods and services are less bureaucracy and hierarchy, decentralization of authority, worker participation in decision-making, with the personal values of workers emphasizing individual autonomy, self-expression, independent thinking, taking the initiative, rejection of gender and racial separation, and a growing emancipation from authority. These new organizational and personal values are transforming the work place and are requiring new forms of management practice and executive behavior. It seems that excellent organizations are displaying these changes in organizational and personal values.
In looking at the connection between the human instinct for moral behavior and excellent organizations, one finds interesting contact points. For example: excellent organizations have a well-defined PURPOSE and the employees believe in the mission of the organization. As determined above, belief assumes the mission is moral and legal, and works to improve the well being of the overall community. Belief is grounded on trust (faith and confidence in the reliability and actions of someone else - the board, executives, managers, colleagues), and this emotion is tied to the emotion of self-actualization (a feeling that one’s actions are moral). Trust and self-actualization are the pathways to altruism (selfless concern for the well being of others), and cooperation (working together for a defined end) or, in other words, mission. Altruism and cooperation, according to the literature, are fastened to the emotions of affection (a gentle feeling of fondness and liking), and attachment (a sense of friendship), two universal human emotions. These personal and social emotions, that spur behavior within organizations, can lead to organizational excellence or, if not expressed, can lead to a partial or total defeat of the mission and goals of the organization.
Excellent organizations establish environments that promote employee creativity and INNOVATION. As Abraham Maslow and the researchers in the human motivation studies field have demonstrated, when an organization has met the physiological, safety and social needs of employees, then the self-esteem (personal and professional confidence, and peer respect) and self-actualization (knowing actions are moral and that talents are being fully used) needs of employees can become operationalized. These elevated characteristics of human nature enable employees to become more self directed, creative, problem solving oriented, accept responsibility and acknowledge facts better, become more concerned about the moral aspects of the organization, and respect the work of others. The cultures of these innovative and creative organizations, as Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel report, stress a structure that is less bureaucratic and hierarchical, authority is decentralized with workers participating in decision-making, and the organization encourages individual autonomy, self expression, independent thinking, with employees taking the initiative. Rollo May, in his important book The Courage to Create (1975), has shown that these virtuous forms of human behavior are well positioned to benefit an organization that is striving to become innovative and creative, and thus high performing.  
Excellent organizations establish functioning FEEDBACK systems so they can learn from customers and clients about how the product or service is being received. The question is how the human instinct for moral behavior dovetails with this attribute of high performing organizations. Peter Senge, in his widely read book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of Learning Organizations - Revise Edition (2006), gives a partial answer to the question. A functioning feedback system is a necessary catalyst for a successful learning organization and, as Senge advocates, a learning organization trusts its employees to be creative in producing new product or service outcomes, and encourages employees to continuously think of innovative ways for achieving its mission and goals. Cooperation between individuals and groups, free and reliable communication procedures, and a viable culture of trust, produce an environment where employees can apply their talents and abilities completely.
The learning organization becomes an excellent organization, Senge writes, when employees think about there jobs in relation to the organization’s mission (systems thinking); through staff training there is personal proficiency of job performance (personal mastery); an open culture replaces confrontational attitudes (mental models); with organization structures that are flat and decentralized employees can participate in decision-making (shared vision); and because employees learn as members of teams there is maximum cross-function dialogue and discussion (team learning). These traits of the learning organization are simply expressions of the higher elements of human nature applied to the work place. With the appropriate organizational structure and management practices in place employees become more self directed, confident, creative, problem solving oriented, accept responsibility and acknowledge facts better, become more concerned about the moral aspects of their activities, and seem to respect the work of others. In other words, these excellent, learning organizations establish a work place where individual autonomy, self-expression, independent thinking, and taking the initiative are rewarded and valued (these attributes apply to many of the 10 characteristics of high performing organizations). Feedback systems energize the human instinctive predisposition towards these virtuous forms of behavior.
In excellent organizations, work is measured against clear, well-defined, and measurable GOALS. When employees participate in the creation of goals for the larger organization, and down through the function, activity, and task levels of the organization, the leadership of the organization is displaying a basic trust in the expertise, professional judgment, and moral sense of its workers. This decentralized system of participatory decision-making allows employees of the organization to identify with its mission and goals, while feeling valued and, at the same time, confident in one’s professional astuteness and personal wisdom. This sense of trust seems to lead to a sense of reciprocal altruism within the organization, and that emotion spawns the emotions of benevolence, generosity and cooperation, all of which are at the very center of organizational excellence. When the employee is permitted to establish professional and personal work goals defining his or her own tasks and activities within the framework of the organization’s mission, this trusted relationship appears to generate the emotion of self-esteems (professional confidence and peer respect) and self-actualization (professional talents are being fully used). Very few employees are going to construct measurable personal and professional goals that are damaging to mission completion, or violate the legal or moral rules under which the organization operates, or harm the larger social and economic environment in which the organization functions. Permitting employees to define professional and personal goals, tied to organization mission, stimulates the human predisposition towards virtuous forms of behavior.  
LEADERSHIP in high performing organizations is clear, strong, reliable, predictable, value based and inspirational. The leadership of high performing organizations must adhere to the mission, the moral and legal rules encompassing the organization, and the larger general welfare purposes of the society within which it operates. The PROCESSES the organization establishes to plan, make decisions, manage information and conflict, and to problem solve, require a COMMUNICATION system where people talk to each other on all levels within the organization. These traits of excellent organizations depend on the moral predisposition of employees who must lead, process and communicate. If the mission and goals of the organization are moral, then the strong, valued based leaders of the organization should move it forward towards mission completion. The processes of the organization will be devoted to actions that will achieve the mission, and the vertical - horizontal communication systems will stress mission completion as the major factor in resource utilization. Sometimes organizational decentralization and participatory decision-making do not produce the desired results and in those situations leadership must take CONTROL of the organization and bring it back to moral and operational equilibrium. Situations that demand this kind of action are: cost control, more attention of customers, more focus on innovation, new mandates from government regulators, corruption, etc. A moral mission; institutional and personal professional goals fastened to mission set by employees; all encouraged by leadership, institutional processes, including communication structures; and the possibility of leadership control when there is failure, depend on a workforce that, in the main, exhibits the characteristics of the virtuous human being.
Excellent organizations recognize the importance of interdependence in the work place. Managing work through the use of TEAMS seems to release the creative juices of employees and also generates effective goal achievement. Teamwork allows the natural emotional feelings of PEOPLE to be expressed in service to the mission of the organization. Empathy (sensing the feelings of others) enables workers to know what others are thinking (theory of mind) and to adjust their ideas and actions accordingly. Managing ones feelings and knowing how to react to the feelings and actions of others aids in producing a work environment where self-control and self-direction, in concert with the same by other team members, constructs a team synergy that leads to mission and goal fulfillment. The outcome of the team approach to work is personal and group pride (a feeling of satisfaction with work done), esprit (personal excitement), loyalty (feeling of support or allegiance), and commitment (sense of obligation). Within the teams of these high performing organizations employees feel a sense of personal and professional dignity (feeling of being worthy and respected) and also a sense that ones’ talents and abilities are being use to the fullest extent. The expression of these emotions also sparks the positive emotions of benevolence, generosity, and cooperation – all necessary for the team approach to goal attainment and to operate efficiently and effectively. It seems there is a direct connection between the moral instinct and the characteristics of high performing organizations.



In discussing the nexus between the moral instinct and the attributes of excellent organizations the unreal world of Alice in Wonderland comes to mind. Given all of the bad news about corporate America and the operations of the United States government, even considering that there might be a moral component to high performing organizations is questionable. However, if one stands back for a minute and looks at some basic numbers perhaps a different observation could be made. There are roughly six billion people on the planet. If only one per cent of the population engaged in immoral behavior (dishonesty, cheating, lying, lack of integrity and probity, etc.) in business or government matters, then the number of bad actors would come to 60 million. If five per cent of the population acted immorally in both areas of human activity the number of bad actors would be 300 million. Most commentators who have looked at these numbers have concluded that “at least 95 per cent of us get along, and possess some kind of mechanisms that guide us through the social morass and complexities of everyday life.” Those mechanisms are the subjects of neuroscientists, behavioral geneticists, and game theorists. Most of these researchers have found that most people tell the truth, don’t cheat and do act with integrity and probity in most of the situations they confront. The human brain it seems is “hard wired” to make moral judgments, with the most simple and profound moral judgment being: treat others’ as you would like to be treated. This uncomplicated moral emotion is the foundation for all of the other moral emotions that have been discussed in this essay.
In identifying the characteristics of excellent organizations one finds human emotions at the center of each attribute. Organizational purpose is surrounded by employee belief and trust, self-actualization and altruism, benevolence and cooperation – all emotions necessary for achieving organization goals. Innovation and creativity in excellent organizations are triggered by the emotions of self-esteem, self-direction, individual autonomy, and independent thinking by employees. Feedback mechanisms and clearly defined organizational goals are made operational by the emotions of trust, self-actualization and self-esteem, a sense that one is being treated fairly, and that the organization is occupied with a moral mission. The characteristics of leadership, processes, communication, and control are tied to employee acceptance of the mission and goals of the organization, namely that the organization is engaged in an endeavor that is adding to the general welfare of the community, is following a set of legal and moral rules, and that achieves its mission efficiently and effectively. Finally, structuring the organization around teams and valuing the people within the organization seems to guide the organization into the realm of excellence. The emotions engaged at this point are: empathy, esprit, loyalty, commitment, a sense that one is valued and respected, and that employee talents are being use to the utmost. Contemporary biological and social scientists are studying all of these emotions and are finding that they all confirm that there are human instincts for moral and virtuous behavior. The key point is that these are the basic instincts or human biological predispositions that serve to make organizations high performing or excellent. Putting the point another way: excellent organizations are rooted ultimately in human nature, which is moral, but can be subject to corruption.



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