I don’t usually recommend books but every now and then there’s an exception to that rule and in today’s case, it’s Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir.
Drawing on cutting-edge research from behavioral science and economics, Mullainathan and Shafir show that scarcity creates a similar psychology for everyone struggling to manage with less than they need. Busy people fail to manage their time efficiently for the same reasons the poor and those maxed out on credit cards fail to manage their money. The dynamics of scarcity reveal why dieters find it hard to resist temptation, why students and busy executives mismanage their time, and why sugarcane farmers are smarter after harvest than before.
While there are numerous examples related to the ways scarcity of resources impacts decision making, I found one of the most applicable chapters is how scarcity of time impacts professionals.
Given that the orchestra sector has a long history of staffers and managers being overworked, it’s good to have examples from Mullainathan and Shafir that quantify the dynamic impact of making this environment the norm.
If you’re looking for a condensed version, you can walk away with a number of key points in a 36-minute podcast NPR’s Shankar Vedantam published on 4/2/2022 where he speaks with the authors at length about several of the core concepts from the book.
If you’re a board executive, I strongly encourage you to read the book and purchase copies for your administrators and staff. It’s a good vehicle to begin talking about the sensitive topics, like scarcity of resources, with empathy.