The Importance of Caring

What happens to a person when he ceases to care about his or her fate? What happens to groups?

In his book Descartes’ Error, Antonio Damásio makes a strong case that emotions are the mechanism which helps translate the survival urge into good decision-making. He figured this out by observing people whose damaged brains for various reasons no longer supported those “emotional” circuits. Many of these unfortunate people were able to calmly observe and analyze their own demise without any concern for themselves and their fate. They essentially became bystanders to their own ongoing demise.

Why did this happen? Because they just didn’t care. In a way, one could say that they lacked a sense of self-ownership.

I see the same phenomenon all the time in the corporate world. Where people with a sense of ownership are not present, often nothing gets done. Things stagnate and decay. Obvious tasks are left undone. Often literally dust settles over everything and the “non-owners” present watch as the decay proceeds. The staff may have the know-how to make a difference, but they lack the motivation.

Of course in a way this is obvious. What is perhaps less obvious is that this is the exact same mechanism which drives living creatures to survive and flourish – or not.

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