Friday, November 06, 2009

"Micro-culture" is very important to how we behave and react

Most of the discussion of Malcolm Gladwell's book, "Outliers," has focused on the role which chance plays in success and the fact that each of us seems to need 10,000 hours to become really proficient at anything, whether sports or music, computer programming or chess. Another interesting part of the book discusses the role culture plays in so much else. In cultures where there is a huge status difference between superior and subordinate, there is a tendency for more airline accidents, because the First Officer is less likely to question the Captain. As we might suspect the cultures with the least awareness of heirarch are countries such as Australia, New Zealand, The USA and South Africa, whereas Asian countries have the greatest hierarchical awareness. This will also apply to other areas such as business, government or education. Change will be more difficutl in a culture in which subordinates are reluctant to challenge authority or received wisdom.

1 comment:

Lucy Siegel said...

Hi, Richard. This is a very important subject for people who are involved in international business. We who work with clients from other parts of the world every day need to understand the hierarchical corporate organizations in many parts of the world and what the business consequences of that kind of business culture.

In college, I remember reading a famous book written in the middle of the 20th century (50s?) on the subject of "The Authoritarian Personality," which theorizes that people with this type of personality make-up are likely to obey orders from a strong leader without questions. The German culture and the Japanese culture have both been categorized as authoritarian by tradition. Yet I would venture a guess that neither Lufthansa in Germany, nor Japan Airlines or All Nippon Airlines in Japan, has more than the average number of accidents. Perhaps this is because both of these cultures place a very high degree of importance on work ethic - doing as perfect a job as possible.