Do you own a business? If so, do you know about Elinor Ostrom? If not, then your business might not be performing as well as it could.

Ostrom was a political scientist who received the Nobel Prize in economics in 2009. She didn’t study business groups. Instead, she studied groups that attempt to manage common-pool resources such as forests, pastures, fisheries, and irrigation systems. These resources are called “common pool” because they are available to multiple users. They are vulnerable to overexploitation since each user has an incentive to take more than his or her share. Conventional economic wisdom held that the only solutions to the “tragedy of the commons” are to privatize the resource (if possible) or impose top-down regulation. Ostrom compiled a database of common-pool resource groups and showed that some were able to successfully manage their resources on their own. Furthermore, she identified eight core design principles that made the difference between success and failure. Her achievement was so new against the background of orthodox economic theory that it earned her the profession’s highest honor.

So where does your business come in? It turns out that those eight core design principles aren’t just needed by common-pool resource groups. They are needed by all groups whose members must work together to achieve common goals. And they are likely to be as new for you, a business owner, as they were to most professional economists.

This means that you have every reason to learn how well your company scores with respect to those core design principles—and we have made it easy by creating a free online survey that you and your employees can take in about 30 minutes. You will receive a report card and a guide to improving your company’s performance by better implementing the core design principles.

To learn more about Elinor Ostrom and her core design principles, visit www.prosocial.world. To take part in the survey, email melvin.m.philip@gmail.com. It might be the best decision that you ever made on behalf of your company.

Published On: July 19, 2017

David Sloan Wilson

David Sloan Wilson

David Sloan Wilson is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University. He applies evolutionary theory to all aspects of humanity in addition to the rest of life, both in his own research and as director of EvoS, a unique campus-wide evolutionary studies program that recently received NSF funding to expand into a nationwide consortium. His books include Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society, Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives, and The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time and Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others. .

Melvin Philip

Melvin Philip

Melvin Philip is a graduate student in the Biological Sciences Department at Binghamton University. He is also involved with the Evolutionary Studies Program on the campus. His research focuses on applying the core design principles for the efficacy of group to businesses.

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