Shades of greed & innovation
Posted July 14, 2009on:
James at Made by Many makes a compelling argument against a throwaway comment by Howard Rheingold:
“Greed helps innovation. Fear prevents it.”
However, James misses the angle that greed can be for many things, not just money. Indeed, we can be greedy for power, attention, comfort, recognition, achievement. Money is really, ultimately, only a symbollic representation of power. For any thoughtful, engaged global netizen, motivations can take many shades between financial reward and benevolence. In her award-winning thesis Evangelia Berdou looked at how a meritocracy develops in open-source communities. She found from her research:
a. that the gift and exchange economies are interdependent;
b. that the boundaries between the gift and exchange economies are permeable and their respective needs are constantly negotiated in the context of projects;c. that legitimate peripheral participation and learning are shaped by the demands of production;d. that programming and non-programming teams are distinctive in terms of their priorities, make up and rhythms of participation.
Thus I would argue we cannot conclude either way that greed is or isn’t stifling to innovation. Rather accept that we all have many motivations, some conflictual, that we may be greedy in more ways than one and that the interplay between our different needs, wants and desires, including that of helping others, is what leads us to those Eureka! moments.