What’s The Motivation?

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Apples are not oranges and this would seem…well, obvious. But, it is not. The apples-oranges confusion is at the core (forgive the pun) of many of our most persistent challenges. For instance, we are in an endless political season and I’ve heard again and again that we need a government that runs like a business. We want efficiency, less bureaucracy, clearer process and better use of technology; if only the government ran like Netflix….

Yes. And, government is not business. The motives of government are not the same as the motives of business; to apply the language of business as the test of governance is to confuse the motives. It is to confuse the word “consumer” with the word “citizen.” One is driven by self-interest; the other is concerned with communal-interest. If government ran like a business we’d all get a pink slip and have to find another country to employ us; I understand the government is downsizing. Anyway, I like choosing the location of my cubicle and if government ran like a business I’d have to live with my assigned space. And, of course, there is this thing called democracy and I’ve yet to find a business that (honestly) embraces the notion of the voice of the people. Apples and oranges.

Education is not business. The motives of education are fundamentally different than the motives of business yet we are now applying the language of business to how we teach and learn. Children are not products and despite our wish to label them as such, there is nothing standard about children or the circumstances of the schools. Is it really the aim of our education system to produce better workers? Are we truly in that much of an imagination deficit? It is another form of the consumer-citizen confusion and this apples-oranges mess is not only limiting the possibilities we entertain it is stunting our growth.

We’ve tangled the motives. Clarity is not in the actions taken; clarity is in the intention beneath the actions taken. Why do we do what we do? We do not treat our families the same way we treat our co-workers because the context is different, the motives behind our relationships are different and yet we regularly cross wires with our institutions: the motives of health care are not business motives, the motives of prisons are not business motives, so what in us is so willing to confuse them? People are not bottom lines nor are they consumable.

Ask yourself: What’s the motivation? What’s beneath the action? Governing is a different animal than Google. Business best practices do not generate dreams; people do.

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