- What is the nature of ego and how can it affect our happiness?
- How does ego differ as a major force of motivation to “do good” from more conventional philanthropy or altruism?
In Weekly Ponder #5 I asked the question why so many changemakers seem to prefer reinventing the wheel rather than to replicate existing ideas in closer collaboration with (and knowledge of) those that came before them. I wondered why so many people feel they need to start social enterprises (just like in the world of NGOs) with their own brands, their own way of doing things, oftentimes without having researched much of what has already been done. Inevitably, the suspicion of ego as a driving force came up in some of the ensuing conversations I was part of in various online forums.
Ah, ego. I love this topic. I love to admire people who use it for productive contribution to the world. At the same time, I love to hate people who get carried away with themselves (and showing it), get in the way of others’ (more important) work and in the end, not achieving much anyway in the process. Pricks. In a way, ego is that 800 pound gorilla in the room that few people talk about when it comes to social innovation and entrepreneurs. Yet it probably has a central place at the table when especially some of the more recent social entrepreneurs with roots from the business world decide to make their mark on the world. I have not seen many studies or surveys on the role that ego plays in pushing the social sector forward… or inhibiting it from promoting the social change we supposedly all seek. So I thought I’d think about it a little here.
Today, drawing from my personal interactions with a host of do-gooders from the camps of investors, entrepreneurs and consultants, I want to first spend some time reflecting on the nature of ego itself and its contribution to our happiness. What are signs of a healthy or unhealthy ego? What’s at stake and why is this a potential hotly contested (but not openly debated) topic in social entrepreneurship?
On another day, in Part 2 of this article, I will then start thinking about the practical role that ego plays in both its positive and negative influences on the motivation and behavior of social changemakers - and try to distill what we in the Good Generation can learn from this in our own quests to make the world a better place… without being pricks.