Social norms and market norms

There's a book called "Predictably Irrational" by Dan Ariely. While I wouldn't really recommend the whole book, it did contain one experimentally-supported concept which I found interesting.

In essence, the experiment tested the idea that humans operate according to either social norms, or market norms.

If true, this would explain why some companies struggle to achieve effective collaboration: their environment emphasises market norms, and thus the what's-in-it-for-me principle wins out.

On the other hand, if the company achieves an environment where social norms are dominant, effective collaboration is much more likely.

Social norms appeal to our ancient evolutionary imperatives, but employment is fundamentally a market-driven phenomenon. This means that it's very easy to undercut attempts to make a dominant-social environment: for example, providing individual bonuses quickly undercuts the social norm in any group.

I think it's an interesting concept. Certainly it provides a plausible explanation for a lot of the behavioral patterns seen in organisations.