15 June 2010

The power of positive reinforcement

I've never been a follower of organised boycotts such as the Nestle one. I understand the key issues, but you need to take a lot of 'facts' on trust from a partisan when you support such a campaign. I have no idea whether Nestle are good are bad - how would I know that what I've been told about them is correct and free of bias?
I also have a more fundamental discomfort about organised boycotts like this. I'd much rather take action based on my own rationale rather than received wisdom.
Finally, there's a significant issue here about how we are seeking to modify the behaviour of these corporations (that is what we're trying to do isn't it?). We're told by child psychologists that we should ignore any undesired behavioural traits in our children, and reward them when we see preferred behaviour (note my hedging away from good and bad - once a philosopher...). Maybe this is an approach we should take with corporations, businesses and organisations. Perhaps, as Phil Cooke suggests, we should reward a retailer because they have exceeded our expectations.
I know from my experience in retail that you rarely get good customer feedback. When you do, it lights up your face, and you're motivated for another week in one of the most poorly paid jobs around. On the other hand, people are very happy to tell you when their expectations have not been met; sometimes in brutal terms. Why, as a society, is it easier to chide than to praise? Is there something about the human mind that makes us do this, or have we been 'trained' into this mode of behaviour? Either way, perhaps we should be the start of a revolution which, rather than boycotting on the basis of presumed wrongdoing, takes a positive experience as the motivation for affirmation - even on a corporate level. Carrots rather than sticks!

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