Huge and global crises give us the chance to compare and to learn on how people and groups of people react differently or show other ways of being resilient, One way of comparing different cultures is looking at the differences between group vs individualist cultures.

Community-oriented cultures have significant assets when facing a crisis

I would have thought right a way that African cultures would be the most resilient towards crisis like the recent pandemic. why? Unfortunately they may have the most experience with health crises. From experience we learn. But one could also say many African cultures have a sense of putting things into perspective in an astonishing realistic way. Humor also can play a role, and not being spoiled and weakened by luxury. but above all maybe also a sense of taking care of the group rather than putting oneself in the middle of all interest. Hence adopting measures by authorities should not be a point… if only it makes sense or if it has a higher purpose.

The more anglosaxonian individualist cultures like USA saw protests of individuals criticizing authorities for undermining individual freedom and rights. Deliberately people ignored the rules and put their government under pressure for withdrawing certain obvious and sound measures. It seemd that those individualist cultures were much harder to manage during a crisis than the community cultures. Moreover people seemd to interpret rules and measures to their own benefit and taste. This lead to what people tend to name “lack of clarity”, but what actually should be named “egocentric disobedience” in many cases. People want to hear what is best fit for their individual interest. If it does not, they call it “unclear”.

Restructuring may be easier in individualist cultures

Companies emphasizing too much the individual objectives and intersts will havze a hard time when changes are to be implemented. The lack of common purpose will drive people in all directions, and will create chaos in work processes and in the minds of people. “There is nothing to be more afraid of than people who are afraid and in panic” someone stated. The only type of change in which individualist cultures may be having an advantage, is restructuring: people will take care of themselves without further adoo and will be in self-rescue modus. Measures will be implemented and the organisation may eventually have the idea of bein,g strong and resistant towards huge problems. But what may be leftover after the restructuring is a bunch of individuals, ready to eat one another when the next crisis comes up. Many corporate cultures thrive on numbers and stats, forgetting that people may be the forgotten potential to success. As long as the numbrs seem to be OK, many a manager “assumes” to be on the right track though.

Having a strong purpose will be the real change accelerator

Community oriented cultures will need a strong purpose to change; and one that is stronger than the purpose they already have adopted as a community. They may obey though easier than individualist cultures towards gradual changes, but still the link with the “why”, the common purpose will be absolutely necessary to keep people on the move. With community cultures one seems to be able to build a stronger and more profound change story, as long as it makes sense. Restructuring because some shareholders or top managers see their bonuses or dividends going too much down is definitely not enough to get community cultures going. Strong stories that stick will do the thing!

Common purpose creates future change capability

I prefer working with community cultures, as it gives me the opportunity to build a better story or framework for change. In change, consultants are sometimes hired to help do the dirty work. As a human being, with strong values, one does not like this kind of assignments. Some clients are very creative in hiding the story behind the story. But for real and effective change, we need a strong purpose and story, one that we can believe in and one that makes sense. Individualist cultures can move towards communities as long as we manage to find what people have in common, so we can nurture this. Any individual wants to have an identity at work, and building a common purpose is a major step towards motivated people…and towards building change capacity for your organisation.

What is your common purpose in your company? Let’s have a talk about it and build on your change capability.