Individualism Vs Collectivism…

Posted: July 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

My first blog entry, on a topic of conversation between me and my roommate….

Should an individual be associated with a group??

How interesting it is to deal with new people everyday, not being confined with same people which others call “a group”. Is it more like being an ‘Extrovert’ enjoying the company of anyone and everyone or is it being an ‘Introvert’ who does not want to come out of that imaginary circle. It is an argument with both sides equally balanced. But not being part of any group confuses people. It is human tendency to judge others and associate everyone with some qualities. Consciously or subconsciously we all have judged others based on their ethnicity or region. Not able to identify or relate a person with some qualities or group confuses our mind.

The foundation of individualism lies in one’s moral right to pursue one’s own happiness which means man’s right to live for himself, to choose what constitutes his own, private, personal happiness and to work for its achievement. Each individual is the sole and final judge in this choice. A man’s happiness cannot be prescribed to him by another man or by any number of other men.  These rights are the unconditional, personal, private, individual possession of every man, granted to him by the fact of his birth and requiring no other sanction. (Ayn Rand)

The time and society we are living in currently ‘encourages individualism‘. It starts from our basic education when individual accomplishments are rewarded. While playing that cricket match in school, everyone praises “the man of the match”, which is accomplishment of individualism over a collective performance by the team. This continues as we grow up and work in an organization. “Employee of the month” singles out an individual performance from the group. This encourages “I” behaviour and naturally competitiveness among the employees. It’s a kind of divide and rule by employers which is leveraging the “individualism culture” of the employees.

According to social psychologist  Prof. Geert Hofstede, Individualism stands for a society in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after himself or herself and his or her immediate family only. For example Americans are more self-centered and emphasize mostly on their individual goals. People from individualistic cultures tend to think only of themselves as individuals and as “I” distinctive from other people.

On the other hand, Collectivism “stands for a society in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong cohesive in groups, which throughout people’s lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. This culture is extended to other spheres in life, where people become part of group and their individuality takes a backseat. Harmony and loyalty within a company is very important and should always be maintained and confrontation should be avoided. Collectivistic cultures like Japan’s have a great emphasize on groups and think more in terms of “we”.

Keiretsu: Collectivism between Organizations

In corporate culture, keiretsu refers to a uniquely Japanese form of corporate organization. A keiretsu is a grouping or family of affiliated companies that form a tight-knit alliance to work toward each other’s mutual success. It is collectivism culture displayed by organizations. The organization of keiretsu is based on ownership of member companies through stock holdings. Since the holdings are held long-term by keiretsu members, stock prices remain relatively stable, and there is little threat of hostile takeovers. This principle helped Japanese companies to prosper throughout the 1980s and capture the markets world over. Collectivistic culture is beneficial to organizations though it may not be applicable to every situation. If we take an example of a Supply Chain of any organization, it is increasingly being seen as “Links constituting a Chain” and the best possible scenario is to create win-win situation for all. One organization cannot win on the loss of other. It has to be mutual benefit for the whole chain to succeed.

From the above examples we can infer that, on one side we see an individualistic culture being propagated among the individuals (society in general) and on other side there is a realization that it is collectivism of organizations that would make everyone a winner. I think the debate is incomplete without more arguments and examples.

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