Goal-Seeking Vs. Ideal-Seeking Behavior

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Human behavior, such as participation, commitment, collaboration, etc., and factors that influence and motivate that behavior such as moral and ethical values, institutional rules, policies, etc., are central to any understanding of organizational performance.

People’s actions do not arise as simple responses to external or internal stimuli per se, but as a response to situations determined by the relationship between the effectivities of the system and the environmental affordances through positive and negative feedback loops (Emery, 1985).

In other words, people’s behaviors are determined by the directive correlation between the individual and his/her environment. Thus, negative behaviors (i.e., maladaptations, such as apathy, lack of responsibility, lack commitment, lack of collaboration, etc.) are attributable to an environment, or a specific organizational structure, that restricts the effectivities and affordances of its elements.

The restriction of effectivities/affordances gives rise to goal-seeking or “rational” individualistic behaviors as a requirement for short-term survival within this type of organizational structure and restrictive environment.

On the other hand, positive behaviors, such as high responsibility, commitment, accountability, etc., are attributable to a contrasting environment, or specific organizational structure that enhances the effectivities and affordances of its elements.

The enhancement of effectivities/affordances gives rise to ideal-seeking behavior through the purposeful pursuit of ideals.

The future of humanity is increasingly determined by the choices people make and their behavior, because ideal-seeking behavior and choice are intimately related (Ackoff & Emery, 1972).

Given the importance of organizational and institutional issues in terms of human behavior, it is only appropriate to focus on the importance of organizational design principles.

It is clear now that organizational structures that more closely resemble a bureaucracy (i.e., Dominant hierarchy or restrictive structure) reduce project performance, increase negative impacts, and do not allow for the sustainability of desired project outcomes.

On the other hand, organizational structures that more closely resemble a participative-democratic organizational structure (i.e., Non-dominant hierarchy or enhancive structure) enhance project performance, reduce/eliminate negative impacts, and allow for the sustainability of desired outcomes.

Since the dawn of civilization, every inch of human progress has been driven by ideal-seeking behavior. The main task and duty of any manager or leader is to create an organizational structure that gives rise to a culture conducive to ideal-seeking behavior!

JC Wandemberg Ph.D.

President & Founder

Sustainable Systems International

About the author: Dr. Wandemberg is an international consultant and stocks trader, keynote speaker, published author, professor, and analyst of economic, environmental, social, managerial, marketing, and political issues. For the past 30 years Dr. Wandemberg has collaborated with corporations, communities, and organizations to integrate sustainability through self-transformation processes and Open Systems Design Principles, thus, catalyzing a Culture of Trust, Transparency, and Integrity.

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