Just this fall, I was a co-chair of my sorority’s annual fall philanthropy Mud Olympics benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Mud Olympics is a team event where Sorority and Fraternity chapters and RSOs compete in events in mud against other teams, including mud-tug-of-war and mud human bowling. Both the organization of the event and the actual execution of the event required major team production, starting first from the planning committee and extending to the women of the sorority. The relationship between team production and reward is a bit of a far cry from the psychology experiment recounted in the New York Times article, primarily in the sense that the reward of the philanthropy event is more intrinsic, intangible, and altruistic in nature.
I want to discuss of the planning process for the event. I as well as three other members of my sorority ran for, and were elected into our leadership position to organize the philanthropy Mud Olympics. In essence we were the hub of the production team directing and guiding other members as we prepared for the event. Huge levels of collaboration were required in the planning process, to coordinate the designing and ordering of t-shirts, to advertise, and register teams, as well to design the relays and obstacle races that would part of the event. Lacking a direct incentive and relying on individuals to hold true to their commitments, the organization of the philanthropy event was a challenge. I along with one other co-chair ended up bearing the brunt of the work in organizing the event while our other co-chairs did not uphold their responsibility as they should have. Much of this was due to lax communication and minimal initiative taken by the other co-chairs. The results of the imbalance, really did affect how the “reward” was distributed, because my co-chair and I had been the main contributors before the event to place, much of the work required to wrap up the even after it had occurred was assigned to the other co-chairs. Whereas, had the efforts to put on the event been equitable at the start, the work required post-philanthropy would have also been dispersed more equally. My and the other co-chair who was my partner in crime- who had busted her butt alongside to make this event a success, while our other co-chair remained mostly in the periphery- were not inclined to “share the spoils” after the event because the other women had not upheld their end of bargain in the team production. It was their “just desserts” to take on more of the work post-philanthropy.
On a more general note, it seems to me that the benefits of collaboration and collective efforts are most prevalent in situation where and individual cannot complete a tasks single-handedly, and when the rewards or gratification are material, or immediate. For example, I find that groups of individuals are most willing to make a team effort and “share the spoils” in activities such as in sports or when each member possess a special skill that other members depend on to complete the given- this matches the results of the experiment.