Friday, March 18, 2011

Altruistic Reciprocity

Reciprocal Altruism: a behavior whereby an organism acts in a manner that temporarily reduces its fitness while increasing another organism's fitness, with the expectation that the other organism will act in a similar manner at a later time. 

We call it Karma Economics. I've had several discussions lately, with other people, on-line, and in my head. All of these discussions revolve around the idea of creating content for free. The question always comes up, "what's in it for me?" Well, aside from what I see as the obvious benefits - owning the conversation, social capital, being the guy who gets quoted in the media, etc. - I think this idea of altruistic reciprocity has some serious merit. Gift economics doesn't rely on a direct quid-pro-quo, there's no score.

The way I see it, writing a blog post and making it available for publication in other outlets costs me a little bit of time, not much else. If I've done a good job of addressing an issue that is of interest to others, then they receive a benefit. The outlet that publishes my blog post as an article receives the benefit of new content. The only real benefit I get is to be the author of the story and for that I gain a little bit of social capital.

But a better example would be bragging on the competition. The actual cost is similar: just a little bit of time. The potential cost could be substantial. If one brags on the competition, the competition gets the press and a resulting bump in their brand awareness. The person bragging might even lose clients to the person they bragged about. The potential cost of this behavior is high.

Furthermore, there's no direct way to measure ROI for Karma Economics. However, I have seen direct returns on investment through the very simple act of bragging on my fellow professional investigators. We produced a story for Marketplace, the public radio business news magazine, a couple of years ago. In that story, we highlighted a fellow PI. She actually got calls afterwards from prospective clients. The thing she did that was unexpected was refer business to me.

See, while we are both PIs, we focus on different types of investigations. My touting her expertise really didn't hurt my business at all. I gladly brag on my fellow professional investigators, the ones who do exceptional work. Even the ones who are trying to do the exact same type of work that I do, assuming they are amazing. Is there a chance I could lose clients to them? Maybe.

In the long run, though, I think it's a win-win. Either way, I enjoy the writing and like to see other people succeed. If I put a little bit of energy into helping that happen,'ll come back someday. I'm not too concerned about it. Karma doesn't seem to worry about the point system.

1 comment:

  1. I love this concept. There is nothing more true than what you give without expectation of return eventually comes back to you multiplied. So keep helping and giving. It will only come back to help you.