Up! A natural way to go and grow
By LAY HSUAN, LIM
We can’t run away from culture. Wherever there is a community, there is bound to be a set of cultural norms that define the community.
Avid travelers would attest to finding out more about the culture of the people living in the region to understand why they behave and practise certain things so as not to experience a “culture shock”.
While this book, Move Up: Why Some Cultures Advance While Others Don’t by Clotaire Rapaille and Andrés Roemer, talks about culture in various countries and how it fosters movement of people, we will relate their research to the organisational level.
After all, it is common in job interviews to discuss about company cultures to see if a potential candidate can fit well in the company.
The heart of culture
Culture is defined as how different groups of people process the same information in their own way, leading to differences between groups in behaviour, rituals, practices, attitudes and beliefs.
Where is your company culture heading at the moment? Did the culture described by the interviewer match your expectations after you joined the company?
Just as in any community, not all aspects of a culture are instantly obvious. Most times, the heart of a culture is only discovered over time, with experience and interaction with others.
The authors likened this as a vast ocean in which what we see is usually the surface of the sea. It is at the bottom of the ocean (the “imprints”) where we find underlying roots on why people behave the way they do.
These imprints include values, motivations for success, expectations of leadership and tolerance for change.
Move up by moving away
Most challenges can be tackled when we are aware of its existence, and when we are ready to move forward.
The sense of awareness helps us to personally, collectively, and culturally recognise our core needs, and to work toward deliverables that we want to achieve.
This naturally empowers us as stakeholders in the organisation with a choice to choose a culture that suits us best.
So if a company culture doesn’t suit us even after we’ve tried to understand its culture codes, it may mean that we need to move away (i.e. leave the organisation or move to a different team) for us to grow.
Of course, we can also do our best to transform its existing culture, especially if we are in the position to make such decisions in the organisation.
The authors also explored fundamental human motives as they find that what motivates us is what moves us.
The logic behind survival
According to the book, the best cultures for survival are those that are demanding, citing Singapore as an example.
Although such places don’t offer the kind of lifestyle we’d prefer, you have to admit that they are good at helping people survive. After all, survival has its connection with discipline, learning and being exposed to risks.
Organisationally, cultures that encourage you to embrace learning, to be inquisitive and to think critically are cultures that are going to help you improve.
The extensive knowledge gathered from our learning culture is what will propel us forward as an organisation threading today’s unpredictable business environment.
A sense of security
Humans always need to feel secure. While “homeland security” means maintaining national borders and protecting our countries from threats, security in the organisational sense equates to how we can protect our business and stay relevant in the market.
The degree of stability of a company would then depend on how it is run. Ideally, a collaborative and innovative culture among business circles would help a company stay ahead and remain competitive.
On another aspect of security, employees need to feel that their future with an organisation is safe. In that, they often place hope that a “responsible” organisation will look after them, should anything happen to them or the organisation.
As a reputable organisation, stakeholders have to ensure that all due diligence is adhered to, by upholding trustworthiness and integrity while maintaining a transparent channel of communication with its employees.
A taste of success
The book is quoted as saying that we can improve our success in two ways, either by increasing our achievements or by lowering our expectations.
More importantly, the question for you is, “What is organisational success to you?”
Do you measure organisational success in terms of ‘ringgit’ and ‘sen’? Or do you see it in terms of the marks your organisation has left through its various social initiatives?
An example would be if you see your organisation as virtuous, then success to you has nothing to do with power or money, but about the common good. As a leader of such organisation, you will do what is best for your people.
Once you’re able to articulate how organisational success looks like to you, you can then craft an environment that makes people feel that it is the best place for them to grow.
A way to judge success is to look at whether people develop in an open or closed system. A closed system is never going to allow people to move up.
An open system, however, will allow individuals to move with freedom (with responsibility, of course) to nurture their growth and development.
The common culture traits behind successful organisations like Google and Apple are that they embrace diversity and integrate challenges from others.
These organisations maintain an open environment that encourages innovation and creative ideas.
It’s time to ask yourself now, “Is my organisation moving up?”