Collective actions require a certain group of people working to achieve some collective good. It usually happens at various levels of the organization, from civic society to businesses. A problem of collective actions takes place when a group of individuals fails to achieve a common good. The theory of collective action was published in 1965 by economist Mancur Olson who argued that providing a public good is problematic to single individuals. Even if they share common interests, there is always a contradicting interest which prevents individuals from acting for the common good. Collective action refers to a set of problems that can be solved only within the well-structured and properly managed organization.
Many organizations lack a recognition of each worker’s interests. Individuals perfectly know their interests and doubt that collective interests intersect with them. As soon as management can convince people that the common good will really benefit their personal needs, they have more chances for success in collective actions. It is easy to achieve in homogeneous groups, but in fact, many organizations are heterogeneous.
Collective action is tightly linked to the problem of free riding. If public goods contradict an individual gain, workers start searching for additional incentives themselves. Some of them enjoy the produced common good without paying for it. Workers can free ride as long as the good is produced. Not all free riders realize that if they do not contribute, the good would be impossible to produce at large.
Mancur Olson put forward the strategy of selective incentives as a way to solve most of the collective action problems. If every individual knows where his personal interest lies within the public good, it would greatly simplify collective actions.