The job description of a hospital janitor includes many kinds of tasks but not a single one involves other human beings. Not one. Yet, when you look at what janitors tell you when you ask them about your job, it’s always about other people:
Mark stopped mopping the floor because a patient had got up and did exercises in the corridor.
One janitor refused to vacuum the visitors lounge because family members slept there despite orders of her superior.
Luke washed the floor in a comatose patients room twice because a relative hadn’t noticed him doing it the first time.
Not all janitors are like this but those who are think these are essential parts of the job.
“These janitors have the moral will to do right by other people and beyond this the moral skill to figure out what doing right means.”
“A Wise Person Knows: When and how to make ‘the exception to every rule.'”
“A Wise Person Knows: When and how to improvise.”
“A Wise Person Knows: How to use these moral skills in pursuit of the right aims.”
“A Wise Person: Is made and not born.”
It takes experience to become wise and not just any experience: You need the permission to be allowed to improvise, to try new things, occasionally to fail and to learn from your failures.
“You don’t need to be brilliant to be wise. The bad news is that without wisdom, brilliance isn’t enough.”
@05:57, he tells a story how people with good intentions ruin the lives of a family for several weeks just by obediently following rules. All people involved said “we hate to do it but we have to follow procedure.”
“Rules and procedures may be dumb but they spare you from thinking.” (- and they allow you to blame others)
When things go wrong, we turn to two tools: Rules and incentives. When something happens, we want better ones and more of them. That happened after the financial crisis: Regulate, regulate, regulate, fix the incentives, fix the incentives, fix the incentives. @8:21 “The truth is: Neither rules nor incentives are enough to do the job.” How do you pay people a bonus for being emphatic?
Rules and incentives help in the short run but they create a downwards spiral in the long run.
By relying on rules, we engage in a war on wisdom. Rules help prevent disaster but they also ensure mediocrity (@10:30). We need enough rules but not too many.
Incentives seem better. But sometimes, they compete with the original goal instead of complementing it. We suddenly stop asking “What is my responsibility?” and turn to “What serves me best?”
Solution? Smarter incentives. Unfortunately, there will never be incentives which will be smart enough. We need incentives but excessive incentives demoralize: “It causes people who engage in that activity to lose morale and it causes the activity itself to lose morality.”
“We must ask, not just is it profitable, but is it right.” – Barack Obama, 18th Dec 2008.
What doesn’t work: Teach more ethics courses. “There is no better way to show people that you’re not serious than to tie everything you have to say about ethics in a ball and consign it to the margins as an ethics course.”
This entry was posted on Sunday, February 3rd, 2013 at 19:09 and is filed under Philosophy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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