Will you do me a favour?

A friend contacted me the other day and apologised for asking a favour of me at short notice. It got me thinking to how economists always bang on about transactions as if we are autonomous beings somehow rationally balancing resource needs, but ultimately I think favours might be a better word, and certainly a lot more human.

Apart from limited command-and-control type situations, people interact because they feel inclinded to do so because of some kind of trust relationship, however limited or limitless. Favours can be tiny or huge, financial or non. Transactions as a word is too cold and ignores the relationship between parties.

The RAND corporation did work on the prisoners dilemma that showed that tit for tat strategies seem to work best in most situations. i.e. tend towards acting altruistically unless it is not reciprocated. Isn’t that how we respond to people when they ask a favour of us? Needless to say I agreed!


  1. In the context of innovation, how do ‘favours’ happen between corporations, government agencies and other players? What rules and etiquette prevails and how understood and explicit are these? Are there timeframes for ‘payback’ and how is ‘non’compliance’ enforced? As we have discussed elsewhere, trust is inextricably tied-up with open innovation and I think the asking and giving of favours is also a part of the trust issue and one worth further exporartion in an emerging ‘gift’ economy;

  2. Interesting points Brendan. The bigger the organisation the harder it gets, but I think lots of organisations are realising that value is created through relationships not transactions, and employees need to be empowered to voice their opinions and leverage their networks. And even those organisations that are totally ignoring this socialisation are finding it happening all around them. You don’t own your reputation, say’s Ron Burt. Rather it lives and breathes in the people you interact with. It’s hard to quantify but brands have massive advantages over smaller companies in being taken seriously, at least at first, for obvious reasons. This response is essentially a favor based on mass awareness. I believe that those that can capitalise on this stand to be a step ahead.

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