March 23, 2007

The group and the individual

Today’s questions:

In order to survive, do you believe that you ultimately need to depend on yourself,
Or do you believe that a group, the family or larger, is necessary for the individual to survive.

Which statement is more accurate:
If each individual is self-sufficient and looks out for him/herself, the group will thrive.
The well-being and success of the group ensures the well-being of the individual.

How large is the separation between an established group and those outside of it?

Does the greatest good come from achieving personal fulfilment or group harmony?

Should you teach your children to be independent and self-reliant or to depend on others, who in turn will depend on them?

Do people naturally prefer individual recognition or group/team recognition?

Do you consider your identity to be personal and individual, or more a function of your membership or role in a primary group?

American culture is generally considered to be on the extreme end of the spectrum which runs from an orientation towards the individual and that towards the group. It is very, very hard for us to recognize this in ourselves and we easily assume that this is just the way things are.

A few years back, I was encouraged by the head (US based) office to offer sales bonuses to staff – INDIVIDUAL sales bonuses -- and I nearly had a mutiny on my hands! How could they still eat lunch together followed by an espresso at the bar once the in-group mechanisms had been broken, and for a something as small as a sales bonus, no way. They wanted to reach our goals, working as a group, and then all share a nice bonus equally – perhaps over a celebratory lunch!

Every Monday the newspaper, Repubblica, prints an interview with a successful woman in business as part of its financial insert. Last week we heard a story that was not very unique. Father and mother founded a small company that grew and grew. Daughter does well in school, is sent all over to travel and learn languages as she grows up, goes abroad for university and/or post university studies and even does some practical first jobs in a different field. Then she receives a phone call, it’s papa. “I am opening a new branch/venture/company/department and I need you to come back and help.” She reflects for moment and then jumps on a plane and starts the next day, becoming very successful and growing the business beyond her father’s dreams. She knows deep down that the well-being of the family and the family business is ultimately her own well-being. Although self-reliant and extremely capable, she depends on her family and they depend on her. She is fulfilled and has a strong identity – which includes at its roots her role in the family.

Lots of family-run businesses here in Italy – even Lapo Elkann (grandson of Fiat founder Gianni Agnelli) will eventually be back.

A domani,

1 comment:

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Very interesting post. I was born and raised in America. My parents are the Caribbean. I cannot tell you how many "discussions" we had about this same issue.

As adult living in L.A. (the land of me, myself and I) I now get what my parents were talking about.