May 12, 2016

Goal Displacement: Solar Panels, Congress, and Your Education

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Telemarketers notoriously violate the Do Not Call list and sometimes call people repeatedly, presumably to sell something. A colleague recently mentioned that she had been called about solar panels, and she told the caller she already had solar panels installed at her home. "No problem, I'll call back later," the telemarketer told her, and proceeded to call back several times that week.

Why would a telemarketer call back even after being told that someone already had solar panels, which is not a product you would need to buy repeatedly? It certainly would make the recipients of these calls angry, and annoying someone is rarely a good way to sell a very expensive product.

Could it be that success for telemarketers isn't judged by how many solar panels they sell, but by how many people they speak to on the phone and how many possible "leads" they get? I've read claims that some telemarketers' calls are made just to see if anyone will pick up the phone; your number is then marked as a possible lead, and even sold to another telemarketing company as a live number. In effect, your answering the phone becomes the product they are selling.

If so, this is an example of goal displacement, or when an organization's original aims shift, sometimes dramatically. The classic example of goal displacement is the shift that took place in the March of Dimes, which was originally created in 1938 to find a treatment and cure for polio. After scientists created vaccines to prevent its transmission in the 1950s and dramatically reduced the occurrence of the disease in the U.S., the organization changed its focus to birth defects.

You could say that this form of goal displacement is beneficial: rather than just shutting down, an organization already skilled in fundraising sought to raise money for another worthy cause. So goal displacement isn't inherently positive or negative; it depends on what the new goal becomes and what the old goal was. A criminal organization that shifts its purpose to become beneficial to others would be a positive form of goal displacement, as was the case of a Chicago area gang in the late 1960s, which sought to provide community services to their impoverished community for a time.

Sometimes goal displacement can be more subtle. It doesn't require a change of a mission statement for goal displacement to happen. Think about the goals of a legislative body; presumably, its goals are to create policies and laws that will benefit the state or nation. But as 60 Minutes recently reported, members of Congress sometimes spend as much as four hours a day making fundraising calls—not because they want to, but because their political party requires them to in order to be re-elected. The names of members were posted in party headquarters, along with the amount of money they had raised. To my knowledge there is no sign highlighting the important legislation they sponsored and helped to pass.

Goal displacement happens within education as well. I'm guessing that no university boasts on its brochures, "Come here to party and put together a transcript of easy A classes!" but that often becomes the goal of even outstanding students, who regularly advise one another about which classes require the least amount of work. At the beginning of some general education courses, I have said that this class might entail more work than you think it will, and people have actually gotten up and walked out on the first day!

Even students who take challenging courses can fall victim to goal displacement, when the goal shifts from learning to grading. Sometimes this is more of a problem for ambitious students, who see their goal as earning an A by any means necessary, even at the expense of learning—or being excited about learning. This, ironically, makes learning less important and education more stressful.

What to do about goal displacement? Sometimes, the institutions have to make changes. Some members of Congress have proposed a bill to make it illegal for members to call and ask donors for money directly. Others call for campaign finance or even an end to political parties. New technologies like Nomorobo identify numbers that make robocalls or thousands of calls at once and block them.

Students can think about their own purpose for going to school: what do you want to learn? What skills do you want to acquire? And even if you plan on seeking a graduate or professional degree (and a high GPA that makes this next step easier), finding your passion might make earning those As a lot easier, and much more fun.


insightful article,thanks

i Personally that students should think about their own purpose for going to school: what they want to learn? What skills do you want to acquire? And even if you plan on seeking a graduate or professional degree i also advice Goal displacement which also happens within education as well.

Giving a student a chance to make own decision is also part of personal effort appreciation.

Giving a student a chance to make own decision is also part of personal effort appreciation.

I have stated that this class might entail extra paintings than you think it will, and those have honestly gotten up and walked out on a primary day.

This lady wrote some great things I ready its don't wastage of time.

You are absolutely right, telemarketers keep on calling even after you deny their services and waste time.

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