Sunday, October 14, 2012

Criticizing collectivism, and then preaching it!

In some of my case studies [American] as well as course material [German], the management culture in some of the countries in East Asia [particularly Japan] has been described as collectivism. The undertone has been negative, in that collectivism isn't such a good thing, since it impedes quick decision-making, and so on. The culture of individualism in the West, in contrast, is supposed to be a better culture - even the media frequently praises the West's individualism.

In stark contrast, in business schools, we're actually taught to shed individualism, and to put on a coat of collectivism [yes!]. We're taught things like "team-based projects", "constructive criticism", "group decision-making", "incorporate team members' suggestions", "take inputs from everyone", and so on. What is all of this? It's nothing but a disguised form of collectivism.

To make long things short, there's some conflict visible in what media and business schools preach, and in what they hail as good. Keeping your own decision above that of your team's is one of the manifestations of individualism. Western-style MBA courses teach you to not do this. Yet, they call Japanese management style backward.