Life can sometimes be unexciting if not refreshed by the will to create according to one’s own conscience and freedom. Often, the power of passion fuses into unexciting or appealing activities. One sometimes expects to be free from the demands, the macro-strings of the society, so that one could do what one wishes. In many different ways, one could say that freedom of this nature may bring about towering creativity though it can also breed chaos. How to find a method that could encourage a pleasing freedom as well as bring about the desirable creativity is very important for the society in general and for business in particular. In short, a balance needs to be sought and erected. But the balance, as I will show, is the one that encourages conceptual creativity to soaring heights while it limits dispositions or practice in line with the prevailing macro- or micro-culture.
I wish to drive my car the way that pleases me. I wish to work the way that gladdens my soul. I also wish to work at my own pace, and the work I do does not have to follow any deadlines that will make me work under pressure or needless stress; for I am my own person as is reflected in the claim that my rights and freedom are mine and nobody else’s. The society must not impose habitual order in my creative ability; else, I may choose not to create, or I may create at a snail’s pace or at a pace that does not interest me the way it originally should. And if most or, at least, many people in the society think the way I do – which I believe they do – then they are quite dispirited as I am because they cannot do what they wish or desire.
But this kind of unrestricted personal freedom clashes with structured arrangements that are loaded with laws, rules, regulations that tend to organize our daily lives in a direction other than what we would have wished. Ordinarily, we call these structured arrangements ‘culture’. And because, as individuals, we must conform to the requirements of culture, we cannot do what we wish anyhow, any time, and anywhere. For if we can do otherwise, then my wishes may clash with yours and others. What I like, you may not like, and others may not like though I agree that there will be some commonalities with regard to our likes and dislikes.
In fact, clashing likes and dislikes contradict the meaning of a society; they hint at disorder, and breed the kind of brazen uncertainties that, nevertheless, some thinkers support and tag the name “anarchy”. Anarchy simply is an enemy to the concept of a society. Anarchy fosters the individual lifestyle, and this also advances iron selfishness.
There is no doubt, then, that the freedom of the will poses a grave danger to the idea of a society. If you grant that I should will what I want and not listen to what the laws, the regulations, the rules of the society say about this will, then I’m the person of the moment, the pleasure-seeker who is not checked by the simulated forces of the society. But I cannot go my own way in a society in which order is the rule and anarchy is a threat to harmony. The job of culture is to check personal excesses and see to it that our doings fit into the cultural scaffold. Our lives, thereby, become orderly, agreeable in the collective or socializable in prominent manners.
We have a macro-culture that is about society in general, and we also have a micro-culture that is about business. Usually, the micro-culture mirrors the macro-culture. The former has to proceed according to the natural movement of the latter. And were it to be that this connection is twisted, then both the societal culture and business face trials and suffer errors that may endanger growth and development.
Businesses face chief snags when they rehash foreign techniques in order to bring about quick developments. A business executive – call him James – sees that a counterpart business is doing better in many areas and strives to copy from the latter. James’ lack of foresight resides in the fact that he ignores the differences between his business and that of his counterpart in the field of culture. He does not realize that the mores, customs of his counterpart’s society are very different from his; that the cultural foundations of his counterpart’s business have been shaped largely by what transpires in that society in the area of macro-culture.
The fact that culture A is different from culture B has to do with differential natural histories, with differential reflexes to environmental stimuli that have shaped all the areas of life in differential ways, including, of course, the area of business. And this process has taken countless many years to get to its present stage and form. As is expected, culture A does business in a way different from culture B. Culture B substitutes nonsense for foresightedness by thinking business has nothing to do with culture. By duplicating A’s method of doing business, B transforms an entire business organization, root and branch, thinking that competing effectively with A tallies with this new approach. B says: “A’s business method, in fact, the structure that has created A’s huge advancement, has to do strictly with business elements, not the peculiar wind that blows from the culture surrounding the seat of business.” B ends the matter in this simple, naive way. Surely, confusion cannot be avoided if B copies from A in the way stated.
For a macro-culture has its own unique language, history, belief systems, patterned or habitual dispositions, collective frames of mind that instruct other relatable activities such as business. But in abandoning a previous business structure, or, at least, heftily transforming it, one also stains the new business structure with corrupted ingredients of the said macro-culture. The business hybrid that emanates may not serve the good interest of the society; often, it does not, since it will tend to destabilize the existing macro-culture in assorted ways without an end in sight.
In many ways, A’s overwhelming success need not unsettle the calmness of B or any other business that faces a similar test or is in a similar position as B. A chief confusion that A must have brought to the field of business is a revisionist approach that tends to belittle and, indeed, scorn the role of culture in business activities. A sees monetary profit as the supreme measure of business success and advances organizational strategies, plans, that wields this ambitious conception into any business-oriented activity. It is in the spirit of money, of profit, that the sense of business has become progressively technical instead of humanistic. And the technical conception of business thrives on the principle that businesses, irrespective of differential cultural determinants, could merge for the purpose of generating more monetary profit in line with technical efficiency.
Other prominent elements of the business structure such as the flow of culturalized ethics, the human fibre, so to speak, are sidelined, thrown out of set priorities. A globalized business enterprise that appears more real than ideal is born from this business wrinkle. It wins great favour because, little by little, culture is seen as superfluous in the planning and implementation of business ideas. Since this seems to be the point, culture appears to be dying faster than one must have thought. Business occupies centre stage in all conceivable areas of the society. Humanism recedes as it is taunted into obscurity.
Perhaps, a much more difficult matter to address – though smaller in scale – is about the composition of a workforce that happens to be multicultural; that is, a workforce that has employees from different cultural backgrounds.
Consider business C whose employees are from different cultural backgrounds and who, therefore, react differently to business ideas and will work in dissimilar ways – though not easily visible – if not micro-managed according to structured principles. In what ways should management promote creative ideas from such employees? Should creativity be allowed to proceed according to what each employee desires or wishes without the patterned intrusions of management? Or should creativity be streamlined according to the structure of management such that what an employee creates ought not be related to personal desires or wishes?
Suppose the former approach is adopted, then creative ideas that are so desirable for innovativeness in direct production will be much more than expected. In other words, creative ideas will inundate the platform of theories, and management will have the glad freedom to choose which ones could enhance the quality and quantity of production. The latter approach may limit creative ideas to some few patterned ones that, according to management, suit structured strategic plans. Often, numerous creative ideas are preferable to limited ones. One has more to choose from with regard to the former than the latter – richness in business life, is it not?
In matters of practical work, that is, in matters of just doing what management wants in direct production, the multicultural make-up of employees may have to be shunned. In the name of culture, differential dispositions lead to differential consequences in production. This could be chaotic, both in the quality of production and the quantity. Yet, one must not lose sight of the fact that all sorts of culture-based creative ideas enrich the knowledge base of business.
My ultimate conclusion is this: Practical production requires conformity; mental creativity needs no conformity – or so it seems.
Mr. Stephen Ainsah-Mensah is a Canadian who has worked in various capacities, largely in Toronto: Race Relations Consultant, Projects Coordinator, Writer, Post-Secondary Business Instructor, Life Skills Instructor, among others. He is currently the principal of Handan-Lilac Education Group in China.