The activity elaborated the contribution made by Henry Ford in the US auto industry during the 20th century. In Britain, the handmade cars consumed lot of time and effort and remained a luxury symbol. But in 1908, Henry Ford’s vision revolutionized the concept of manufacturing and created a whole new look for the industry. He aimed to make a simple and affordable car for the common man which could stand against the horse and buggy car and titled it as model T. It was considered to be among the first ever platform-based products equipped with one of the most efficient designs of that time (Alizon, Shooter and Simpson, 2009).
Inspired from the efficiency expert Fredrick Taylor, he drew the attention towards improving the pace of workers to get the same job done within less time, thereby improving the productivity. At Ford’s factory, Taylorism changed the traditional norm by breaking down the production into various repetitive steps.
In 1913, a major turnaround happened with the introduction of the concept of assembly line. The emergence of assembly line changed the landscape of manufacturing, and eventually became a huge facilitator of Industrial Revolution (Micieta and Stollmann, 2011). The assembly lines became a key to the mass production at Ford’s factory. It made the workers an integral part of the production and the management. However, the workers felt the work pressure as they had no control whatsoever with the pace of mass production.
Before the situation could go out of hand, Ford came had a solution up his sleeves. During the beginning of 1914, Ford decided to increase the wages from $2.83 for a 9-hour day to $5.00 for a day (The Franklin Institute). This pacified the workers and the factory was flooded again with good applicants. So, Ford was making cheap cars, minting good profit with well-paid workers.
Ford had set a simple rule for all: work hard and earn more. The company’s protection agency was instructed to keep a close eye on the workers lest anyone creates a trouble to halt the production. In fact, he went on to hire over 100 spies to keep a close eye on employees in their own houses (Bigu and Anastasiu, 2016). He forbade the formation of labour union in the factory, thus causing job insecurity among the front line workers.
I realized the principle activity of dividing the long process into parts to get the job done worked well in my organization. It organizes all the job tasks and responsibility is divided among employees.
The principle idea of reducing the time consumed per job destresses employees and improves their productivity.
The idea of increasing wages is one of the preferred tools of employee retention. However, it fails to provide the much desired employee satisfaction as employees get bored of doing the same job.
Its hard for me to fathom that I can physically harm or emotionally hurt anyone under obedience. I would have to be drugged or probably hypnotised to do something like this. Though if I turn the pages back, there have been many crimes committed in the name of obedience. Who can actually forget holocaust?; it’s a permanent black mark on the face of humanity. However, Milgram experiment results baffled me to no limit. A whopping 65% participant in the research actually gave electric shock of upto 450V to a selected subject (Russell, 2009).
Though the participants were lied to, that its only to check their memory, most of them did manage to beat their conscience to harm the subject after repeated orders. The naïve participants exhibited hesitance and even relented to go ahead after a limit, but on some more persuasion, they pushed the intensity to cross the mark of mild shock. As much as it sounds staged, some people could go through the shrieking sound of the object is disturbing. Its important to demonstrate early defiance else one can end up becoming obedient under authority (Rochat et al., 2000).
Touted as one of the most shocking experiments in the history of social psychology, in 1961, American social psychologist, Stanley Milgram, from Yale University, conducted an experiment to dig deeper into the wedge between human conscience and tendency to abide by an authority (Russell, 2009). The compelling reason behind conducting the controversial experiment was the influence of the horror stories of the holocaust victims (Whitbourne, 2013).
The study results and the current bloodshed seen across many war-ridden countries such as Syria and Iraq, make me believe that humans are capable to commit heinous crime when governed by influential and devious minds. In such an agentic state, an individual considers himself as mere a vehicle to follow the directives coming from a powerful person (Bocchiaro and Zamperini, 2012). In such mental conditioning, they tend to feel no burden from the conscience and instead carry out the orders without any hesitation (Zamperini, 2003).
Blind obedience can be so destructive for the humankind. While we talk about human conscience, I wonder if the Nazi concentration camps guards had some unique psyche to have caused such massacre. The participants during the debriefing sessions shared the influence of the professor and his allegiance with the Yale University as the triggering factor (Milgram, 1974). Though I can comprehend provocative actions, bending under authority to commit any brutal act is unpardonable. Despite the controversy, it has compelled me to dig more about human psychology of the perpetrators behind the heinous acts.
The e-learning activities have provided a thorough learning experience with the unravelling of some new concepts. The first activity discusses the contribution made by Henry Ford in industrial revolution. Many of his learnings and principles strengthen the auto industry then but may not be relevant in the existing corporate ecosystem. Whilst the intent to boost the productivity remains the same, the rules have changed now.
The second activity drew the attention towards the repercussions of blind obedience under authority to harm others. The Milgram experiment proved that the tendency or desire to obey others could potentially make people rebuff their own judgement to inflict injuries or harm to others. Its important to listen to one’s own conscience instead of getting influenced under others.
Activity 1 URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PdmNbqtDdI
Activity 2 URL: https://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2012/s3489852.htm
Alizon, F., Shooter, S.B. and Simpson, T.W., 2009. Henry Ford and the Model T: lessons for product platforming and mass customization. Design Studies, 30(5), pp.588-605.
Bigu, D. and Anastasiu, I. 2016. ‘Employee’s Life Outside The Workplace: Ethical Challenges Of Privacy’., In Proceedings Of The 10th International Management Conference. "Challenges of Modern Management", November 3rd-4th, 2016, BUCHAREST, ROMANIA.
Bocchiaro, P. and Zamperini, A., 2012. Conformity, obedience, disobedience: The power of the situation. INTECH Open Access Publisher.
Micieta, B. and Stollmann, V., 2011. Assembly line balancing. DAAAM International p, pp.257-264.
Milgram, S. 1974. Obedience to authority: An experimental view. New York, NY: Harper and Row.
Rochat, F., Maggioni, O., and Modigliani, A. 2000. The Dynamics of Obeying and Opposing Authority: A Mathematical Model, In: Obedience to Authority: Current Perspectives on the Milgram Paradigm, T. Blass (Ed.), 161-192, Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers, Mahwah (NJ)
Russell, N.J.C., 2009. Stanley Milgram's obedience to authority experiments: Towards an understanding of their relevance in explaining aspects of the Nazi Holocaust.
The Franklin Institute, n.d. The Case Files: Henry Ford, published with support from The Barra Foundation and Unisys. Project team directed by Carol Parssinen, Senior Vice President for the Center for Innovation in Science Learning, and Bo Hammer, Vice President for The Franklin Center. https://www.fi.edu/learn/casefiles/ford/file.html.
Whitebourne, S. 2013. The Secrets Behind Psychology’s Most Famous Experiment. [online] www.psychologytoday.com. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201301/the-secrets-behind-psychology-s-most-famous-experiment
Zamperini, A. 2003. Obbedienza distruttiva e crisi dell'azione [Destructive Obedience and Action Crisis], In: S. Milgram, Obedience to Authorithy: An Experimental View, 9-42, Einaudi, Torino, (Introductory essay to the Italian translation)
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