By Brian Doelle
Do cultural attitudes affect an organization’s growth and productivity?
In the total absence of proof, I firmly believe that the answer is "yes." However, if I was at the helm of a large corporation, or charged with drafting a country’s annual budget, I’d want to see some hard numbers.
I haven’t come across any studies citing figures, but I keep on coming back to one simple example. Try this… Make a short list of a few countries with the largest ecomomies, and then a list of the fastest growing economies. Now, think of a few countries that are small and stagnating.
I’m sure your list will differ from mine. But I’m willing to bet that if we compare the countries chosen, the same trends in cultural attitudes towards women will hold.
Countries with large, vital ecomomies should universally view women as equals, with ready access to higher education, employment and advancement. Now contrast that to those economies going nowhere. Could it be that giving all of a country’s citizens (rather than only half) the opportunity to succeed helps the country as a whole succeed? That sure doesn’t seem like a radical notion.
While looking around for some real research, I came across the the December issue of Cato Unbound, How Much Does Culture Matter? In the lead essay by Lawrence Harrison, I was suprised by how familiar some of the cultural traits of "progress-prone" societies were, versus "progress-resistant". Here’s a few traits from the Economic Behavior list:
- Work/Achievement: progress-prone cultures "live to work", while progress-resistant cultures "work to live."
- Competition: leads to excellence in progress-prone, where it is a threat to equality — and privilege.
- Innovation: the progress-prone culture is open and quick to adopt innovation, while the resistant culture is suspicious and slow to adopt it.
- Advancement: based on merit in progress-prone cultures, while resistant cultures favor family or patron connections.
Those sound like the traits of highly successful companies! When I make another short list of those companies I view as dynamic and growing, they overwhelmingly exhibit progress-prone attitudes to the cultural views above. How about your list?
Okay, I’m sure I haven’t helped to convince your CEO that springing for things like office slushy machines or lavish awards presentations for exceptional achievement are a great investment (sorry!). But at least I’m feeling better about believing in something, even in the absence of proof. If anyone comes across a study on the topic, please send it along to the DIFF team. I’d sure like to see it and I promise to mail a copy to your boss!