The Sheer Power of Grit

The Sheer Power of Grit

With the summer break slowly creeping up on us as the academic semester draws to a close, a significant proportion of us are now scrambling with internship applications for the various established firms and exciting positions available. And so, processes like personality tests, IQ assessments, and other forms of questionnaires have become all too familiar, as it is inevitable for us to go through such screening gates during the application process.

Which leads me to ask – just exactly how useful are these tests, when it has been researched and shown that neither IQ, EQ, nor personality are significant predictors of success? And now you might be wondering, if none of the above can determine your worth or value as a potential employee, what else can? The answer is, accordingly to psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth, grit.

Grit is not just hard work, or resilience, or a strong passion and drive. It is not a one-dimensional value. In psychology, grit is a distinct personality trait that is positive and non-cognitive, and is based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or endstate. There is so much to grit, yet so little is known about it. While there have been quotients to gauge intelligence and personality tests to measure traits, there is no standardized test (yet) to measure grit. While there have been courses to improve one’s IQ and EQ, there hasn’t been any to develop or hone one’s level of grit.

Angela Lee Duckworth

Psychologist & TED Speaker, Angela Lee Duckworth

However, there is a certain way of thinking that can influence the level of grit that you have – the Growth Mindset. Created and coined by Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, the Growth Mindset is about believing that success is based on hard work, learning, training, and doggedness; it is about believing not in a static state of ability, but rather, in an ever-evolving growth process that eventually leads one to success. Dweck has found that in students with Fixed Mindsets, where they believe that abilities are somewhat fixed and that doing badly equates to failure, electrical activity in their brains measured almost zero when they confront errors. What does this mean? It means that they run from their errors, that they do not engage with it, that they are afraid to think and that they see these errors as the end of the road.

On the contrary, students with the Growth Mindset experiences immense electrical activity in the brain when they confront errors. They see errors as difficulties that can be overcome with effort and time, and they believe that abilities can be developed. They process the error, they learn from it, they make connections, and they grow. They go through a process of grit, developing them into more capable workers and problem solvers.

Carol Dweck

Professor of Psychology & TED Speaker, Carol Dweck

What this means is that organisations need to recognise that there is more to screening than just IQ and personality tests. Yes, intelligence and personality type does shed some light onto an applicant’s potential for success; however, grit is a more stable predictor for success than the others. It also means that organisations need to start seeing their employees as dynamic people with infinite potential and ever-evolving abilities; organisations themselves need to have a Growth Mindset, in order to inculcate a similar belief in their employees. Demonstrating this would require firms to go all the way down to the way their organisation behaves – how they treat failure, obstacles, errors, and difficulties. Perhaps the best time to demonstrate the Growth Mindset best would be during turbulent times, where leaders are given the opportunity to be truly transformational, and where followers are given the chance to outperform themselves. This is one of the ways in which the organisation can grow and succeed – through grit, resilience, and perseverance.

After all, organisations do not just aim to exist for the duration of a star burst. Growth is not a mere sprint – it is a marathon.

 

References
Duckworth, A. L. (2013, April). The Key to Success? Grit. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from Ted: http://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit

Dweck, C. (2014, November). The Power of Believing that You Can Improve. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from Ted: http://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve?language=en

Tomasulo, D. J. (2014, January 8). Grit: What Is It and Do You Have It? Retrieved March 28, 2015, from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-healing-crowd/201401/grit-what-is-it-and-do-you-have-it

Engagement at work

Thoughts about engagement at work

I would like to share my thoughts about the topic „engagement at work“, that was discussed in todays class. We defined engagement, pointed out the positive effects engagement has and how a leader can build engagement at work. I will focus my thoughts on the negative points engagement can have from a company and employee point of view and I will also share my point of view about the attention this topic receives.

 

From the definition provided by Christian, Garza and Slaugther, 2011 that says engagement at work can be described as a “psychological connection with the performance of word tasks rather than an attitude toward features of the organization or the job”, one can observe that engagement is something that goes beyond pure job or task satisfaction. It goes deeper and leads to better performance, more innovation and very committed people. An outcome every company and every employee wants to have. That said, I would like to bring up my first point. I think pushing this topic and creating awareness to a broader audience leaves to very unrealistic expectations for employees. Of course, engagement has its positive sides for both parties and nowadays work life balance and job satisfaction is important, but I seriously doubt that there are enough meaningful and exciting jobs to expect every single worker to be engaged. It might be even profitable to lower expectations of people on how engaged they can be at work, so employees can be surprised and even more satisfied when their expectations are exceeded and they might be not disappointed if engagement is low, because their expectations were not that high.

Another thing I would like to mention is, that engagement at work should never be seen as the final outcome and it should not be misunderstood by employees. One should always remind itself of the goal of a company, namely, making money. Of course, work engagement makes employees feel happier, more satisfied and very committed. It also increases productivity for the company and hence the employees can contribute to the success of the company. Still, work engagement is the mean that helps an organization to be more successful. Employees should never misinterpret it, the firm is not interest in a persons well being like your family is, it is only a mean to achieve a goal. Also from a companies perspective, it should not loose control of this process and it should not forget what the final goal is. I do not say that this relationship is a bad one, I would only like to shed some light on it, as I think that people often forget what the goal is, from both sides.

My last point on this topic is simply that a company should not overemphasize work engagement. The positive effects it brings, are only there up to a certain point. Over engagement can lead to very happy employees that do not feel the need and urgency to work. Hence processes might be slowed down and the drive for new innovation might be missing. All in all, I think one should have a balance between too much of engagement and none to create a productive working climate.

 

Few Words on the Culture of Taj Mahal

The story on employee performance in Taj Mahal Palace in 2008 got me thinking about organizational culture and hiring practices. I find it absolutely amazing how the employees were willing to put their lives at stake during the terrorist attacks and how they genuinely wanted to serve the customers the whole time.

I am willing to argue that this kind of behaviour is something that simply would not happen in any western countries. As I live in a country where social awkwardness is part of everyday life I find that the customer service attitude is even at its best only forced. It’s surface acting and we’re quite frankly used to that. However, I’ve found out that in Asia this attitude and values are genuine.

I have a personal experience on the issue as I was in Myanmar just some weeks ago and we rented motorcycles to make travelling and exploring a bit more convenient. It was quite late in the evening when our bikes began to show signs of struggling and it didn’t take long for them to completely break down. Then, all of sudden a local middle-aged man stopped by with his scooter and asked whether we were okay and needed any help. It then turned out that he was a manager in some nearby resort and offered us to stay there the night for free should we have wanted. Our own hostel was pretty close by so we turned the offer down but still it amazed me how genuinely friendly this person was towards people he really did not know.

This kind of behaviour cannot be trained. It’s something that you’re grown up to and the culture you live in has big impact on how you treat other people. Thus I find it no surprise that Taj Mahal Palace recruits people who, at least in the eyes of other recruiters, are probably not the most desirable candidates for the task. When your job is to serve customers, you really want people who genuinely value hospitality, kindness and right attitude for the job. These are not the people who have excellent academic success or who graduate from top schools. They are the people who have had to settle for a lower tier school because they’ve had to take care of their relatives, they’ve had a family business they’ve needed to run or they have not wanted to leave their acquaintances behind. They value people and detriment success or high status.

The last thing I want to ponder is whether this kind of attitude can be sustained in Asia for long time. I believe that there are fewer and fewer countries that still hold these values in high regard as the more modernized they become the more their values shift to western individual ones. Strong family ties break down and suddenly material success is more important than seeing your relatives every day. Perhaps in the future places such as Taj Mahal Palace is going to have big difficulties finding suitable employees that would put their lives in front of customers.

The effect of communication in Organizational behavior.

The effect of communication in Organizational behavior.

In today’s session we reflected on our results of the simulation which aimed for the goal of showing how difficult the communication and management of stakeholders. This topic struck me in particular because of two reasons: First, I encountered the topic of communication in business before in a positive way in my internship at a trading company: They let me influence meetings and decision making which was a new and welcome experience for me and motivated me to actively participate during my internship. Secondly I talked about the importance of communication with employees in organisational effectiveness before. In our simulation team we found out quickly that we underestimated the communication with our simulated stakeholders. This quickly resulted in a miscommunication and bad relation between our team and lead to a rather low score in this area. These results go in line with the studies by Elton Mayo which were performed in the Hawtorne works in 1924. In his study, Mayo discovered that there is a correlation between the performance and satisfaction of an employee and whether they feel like management is paying attention to them. This effect was shown by changing the lighting in the factory. The light itself did not change the behaviour but the feeling that people are interested in the workers and that someone is taking care of them made them feel important and raised their working morale. The experiment was duplicated a few times and this effect can also be seen in the simulation as people become more unsatisfied the less they are involved, even if there are no major changes which need to be communicated. This was a problem which my group and I were not fully aware of during the simulation. We focused more on numbers and hard facts instead of the human factor. I think that many companies nowadays do the same mistake and that this effect is not utilised enough by todays organizations which results in missed worker efficiency. We see Feedback forms for employees quite often but in my opinion, this is a weak try to involve the employees in the corporate decision making. The real change after giving such a feedback in an organisation is barely visible, letting the employees feel useless. There are some companies with disruptive new structures such as google in which the hierarchy is maintained as flat as possible. I am well aware that this company form is not applicable for every Industry and company but at least some extent of employee co-determination should be possible. It will make the company feel more at home and should motivate everyone to work harder.

Concluding I want to motivate managers to show their employees that they care about them and that they are not just workforce which might as well be replaced by machines. This attitude should be beneficial for all parties and self-reinforcing.

Source:

https://explorable.com/hawthorne-effect

 

What can we do to become better leaders?

Today, the topic of leadership is heavily debated and there seems to be opposing views on whether a leader is born or made, and what qualities are essential to be a good leader. In this blog piece I want to elaborate on and discuss the topic of leadership linking it to research as well as my personal views.

Perhaps the most important question when it comes to the topic of leadership is whether a good leader is a result of inborn qualities or abilities that are developed throughout his or her lifetime. Research referred to in class has shown that the spilt of what is inborn and what is developed is on average 40%/60% respectively. The degree to which this distribution varies do I not know, but there must be a certain extent of variation depending on who you are and the external environment you are  exposed to. An interesting article in the Forbes written by Erika Andersen supports the claim that some are born leaders and that others, no matter how hard they try are not able to be good leaders. What is interesting according to this article is that people in terms of their quality of leadership are distributed on a bell curve, where the vast majority of people are located on the mean, and therefore have the opportunity to become great leaders. As a result, we can agree on the fact that a good leader is a result of both inborn qualities as well as qualities that are developed.

Once the idea that leaders are a result of a mix of inborn qualities and developed abilities, then the focus can be shifted to how great leaders are developed. Given the assumption that we are not perfectly born leaders, what should we then focus on to become better leaders?

First, for you to be able to get people to follow you and to support your ideas you need many qualities, but my opinion among the most important qualities are being enthusiastic. It does not matter how great a leader you are if you are not able to get people excited about your ideas and inspire them to perform at their very best. Research has shown that for a speaker’s impact, what is being said only has 7% of an impact compared to how we say it which is 38% (body language 55%). Most of us are extremely concerned with the content of what we are going to say, and that is important, but truth be told, how you say it is on average more than 5 times as important. I am sure we all can relate to personal experiences where we have been part of a group with an enthusiastic leader that really has managed to get us engaged, and on the flip side also have been part of groups where the leader lacked enthusiasm. So next time you are in a leader role, try to be ten times more enthusiastic, and be astonished by the results.

Second, I would like to draw the attention to a visionary of his time who was mentioned during one of our class discussions. Dale Carnegie can be seen as a guru within the field of human relations and leadership. In his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People he presents his ideas in the form of principles that will make you a more efficient leader if they are applied right. The principles are simple and easy to apply, if applied enough times, they will eventually become a habit. Among the principles are: “Begin with praise and honest appreciation”, “Ask questions instead of giving orders” and “Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct”. Personally, I find his work very intriguing. Let us say that you instead of giving somebody direct orders try to ask them questions and try to steer them onto the path that you think leads to the right solution or process of solving a problem. The employee will then feel that the idea is his or hers and you get your desired results without giving direct orders. If you manage to apply some of these principles, you will most likely become a better leader. (I have attached a link for those of you interested)

In conclusion, it can be said that good leaders are a result of both inborn qualities and attributes that are developed through his or her lifetime. Nevertheless, since none of us are born perfect leaders, we can make efforts to develop as leaders through for example make use of enthusiasm as well as guiding leadership principles from Dale Carnegie.

Link to Dale Carnegie Principles
http://www.dcarnegietraining.com/resources/leadership-principles

References
http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2012/11/21/are-leaders-born-or-made/
http://www.dcarnegietraining.com/resources/leadership-principles

 

Single- and double-loop learning

Single-loop and double-loop learning

 

In this blog entry I will discuss the theory of single- and double-loop learning presented by C. Argyris. Furthermore I will explain in what ways the understanding of those learning processes can lead to better organizational outcomes.

In 1978 C. Argyris developed a model that describes two ways that one can learn from one’s experiences, single- and double-loop learning. This model was made to understand how people learn within organizations. Moreover, it can support group development processes, global teamwork as well as intercultural learning.

Single-loop learning is the easiest and most common learning style. It involves using feedback to make continuous adjustments and adaptations, in order to maintain a high performance standard. For example, if a certain action yields results that are different to what one expected, through single-loop learning, one will observe the results and automatically take in feedback, in order to apply a different approach. It is in a sense increasing efficiency by learning out of experience. The more one does something the better one gets at it. This can translate to cost savings, increased revenue and profitability amongst others in a corporate setting.

Double-loop learning is a more complex way of processing information and involves a more sophisticated way of engaging with an experience. It is the ability to challenge and redefine the assumptions underlying performance standards to improve performance (Argyris, 1978).

Argryris used the analogy of a thermostat to controlling the room temperature to explain the difference between both types of learning. In single-loop learning the thermostat will find the optimal way to heat or cool the room to a specific temperature. Double-loop learning however will challenge and redefine the controlling variables by questioning whether the specified temperature is suitable for the people in the room. I find this analogy very applicable to Singapore where I experienced that stores, as well as the university are effective in cooling entire buildings. However, in most cases these buildings are too cold. Through single-loop learning Singaporeans managed to efficiently cool there buildings, but second-loop learning is needed to redefine the underlying performance standards. Intercultural interactions are another useful application of this theory that I experienced first hand on my exchange at the NUS. Our values and beliefs are deeply rooted within our cultural background. Moreover, so are the assumptions we make about what strategies will be successful in a given situation. When being confronted with an intercultural misunderstanding, it is natural to react with one’s default behaviour. In case this is not effective, one will reassess one’s strategythrough single-loop learning, until one finds a solution that works. This may be enough in many environments. In intercultural behaviours however, this strategy has higher chances of being unsuccessful. These situations require a deeper assessment of the situation and strategy. To have a constructive outcome, one has to modify and adapt some of one’s own goals and beliefs to create an attitude that is open to many cultural values and application methods (Henderson, 2013).

Both single-loop as well as double-loop learning can be effective in the right situation. Single-loop learning is all about increasing efficiency and learning by doing. Double loop on the other hand looks at the big picture and tries to steer efforts in the right direction. Currently the world of business is dominated by single-loop learning and double-loop learning is mostly applied after a crisis(McLucas, 2003). It is important however one understands double-loop learning and applies it regularly to make sure that one’s effort is put to optimal use.

 

 

 

loop-learning1 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Argyris, C. (1978). Organizational Learning.

Henderson, S. (2013). Evaluating Double Loop Learning of Cultural Competencies.

McLucas, A. C. (2003). Decision Making: Risk Management, Systems Thinking and Situation Awareness. Argos Press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Culture

By: Nabeel Momin

In every class I have taken in business school, Google is mentioned at least once or twice. If asked by a stranger whether any student would be willing to accept a job at Google, I believe an overwhelming majority would be inclined to say “Yes, of course!” So what makes Google special in the eyes of these students and talented employees? It is the culture that has been cultivated by the tech firm through the decades that draws these people to the corporation.

Google, founded by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, emphasizes a culture similar to that of a startup even though the company has expanded globally. The flat organizational structure, emphasis on cooperation and talent over experience, and a push from organizational leaders promoting new “Googley” innovations from employees promote a great cultural environment that attracts so many fresh graduates to 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway in Mountain View, California ever year.

Though there are many definitions of culture, I believe one definition sticks out to me the most: culture is the “sum of values and rituals which serve as ‘glue’ to integrate the members of the organization.” Following this logic, it makes sense that culture plays an important function in successful businesses because it creates a collectivistic environment in which people share similar beliefs. Culture provides employees with an identity and a sense of belonging, a guide for acceptable and ethical behavior in the workplace, and a reason to have pride in their work for the organization. It is not an aspect of a business that can be fabricated or faked and develops from the starting of the organization when the founders establish the company. It generally changes as the organization adapts to the changing business environment and defines its core values.

In class, we discussed the dimensions of organizational culture that help a corporation differentiate from another corporation. These dimensions include level of independence, variety of tasks, time horizon orientation, etc. However, there are some basic components of a great corporate culture that we didn’t discuss in class. According to John Coleman’s article in the Harvard Business Review, these include vision, values, practices, people, narrative, and place. A vision articulates the purpose of an organization and is representative of the beliefs of its’ founding fathers. A company’s values guide employees on an ideal path to achieve this vision, defining acceptable behaviors. Practices are the method through which a company carries through with its values. Given a vision, values, and the practice of these values, people serve as a bridge to connect the three and reinforce the existing culture within an organization. According to the article, the ability to unearth the unique history of an organization and develop it into a narrative is an essential element of culture.” Lastly, the place in which the organization is located, for example, tech companies in the Silicon Valley, helps to reinforce the culture existing within the organization. These 6 attributes provide a firm foundation and are imperative to either forming a culture within an organization or reshaping an existing culture. As a result, a corporation should look at these 6 factors when evaluating their culture.

From a personal standpoint, it is important to me to look the culture of an organization before joining because it helps me determine whether I will be a good fit for the company. Often times, companies state that they are looking for talented employees that will fit into their culture. However, it is important for these same employees to apply to jobs in which they will fit and in which they will be the most comfortable. According to a recent study by Randstad, approximately 67% of employees believe that culture matters and is very important in an organization. This is especially evident when considering the list of 2014’s best multinational workplaces: Google, SAS Institute, Microsoft, Marriott, and American Express, just to name a few. What do these companies have in common? Culture.

 

Sources:

Coleman, J. (2013, May 6). Six Components of a Great Corporate Culture. Retrieved March 24, 2015, from https://hbr.org/2013/05/six-components-of-culture

The World’s Best Multinational Workplaces. (2014, January 1). Retrieved March 30, 2015, from http://www.greatplacetowork.com/best-companies/worlds-best-multinationals/the-list

Watkins, M. (2013, May 15). What Is Organizational Culture? And Why Should We Care? Retrieved March 24, 2015, from https://hbr.org/2013/05/what-is-organizational-culture/

Maintenance of organisational culture and its fragmentation

In class, we discussed the importance of organisational culture and how a strong organisational culture can be beneficial for both employers and employees. However, it got me thinking about large multi-national corporations (MNCs) that have branches overseas. Can the “original” organisational culture be maintained with “new” roots in a different culture, and is cultural fragmentation within an organisation always a bad thing?


(1) Can the “original” organisational culture be maintained in a “new” country?

So, we know that culture is the underlying set of beliefs, values, norms shared by members of an organisation. The purpose of culture is that it enables employees to take pride in the organisation they are working for and thus creates a sense of belonging.

What about MNCs that have operations in different cultures? Of course, the organisation can communicate what they expect and how the culture is, organisational socialisation, but that does not gurantee the total acceptance of it by the employees in the “new” country. Organisations also hope for anticipatory socialisation where employees accept the values and beliefs of the organisation before entering. However, that is based on the assumption that the future employee has complete access to the knowledge of the “original” company’s culture. Mostly, organisations count on resocialisation when they set up an overseas division, hoping that employees learn the new culture and accept it.

However, I got to thinking that regardless of the learning processes in place for an employee to accept the organisation’s culture, there will be to a certain extent a difference between the “original” organisational culture and the overseas division. A person is exposed to and acculturated into his/her own culture and hence beliefs well before he/she joins the workforce. These beliefs that an employee has are in line with their own culture and culture that the organisation goes into, not necessarily the culture that the organisation brings thus leading to a cultural fragmentation of sorts within an organisation.


(2) Is cultural fragmentation always a bad thing?

But is cultural fragmentation always a bad thing? We talked about reverse socialisation in class where younger members teach older ones hence influencing the organisation’s culture. My take on this is that organisations that do expand to other cultures need to be open to the “new” cultures. Perhaps there is a possibility that there is something new that can be brought back to the “original” base. Or, and more likely, there is a possibility that the “new” culture can reach out to consumers of the region better. Different cultures subscribe to different aspects of cultures, and the “original” organisational culture is more often than not rooted to the culture of the “original” country. However, who is to say that the country that the organisation is expanding to may have aspects of culture that would work better for the organisation and should be adopted? Aspects such as teamwork or being results versus process oriented.

The different cultures that an organisation exposes itself to, I’m sure, has an effect on organisational culture as a whole. While the foundation of the organisational culture is rooted in western ideals, the way the Asian division works, what it believes in and what makes it tick is quintessentially based in the Asian values.

It is my view then that cultural fragmentation of an organisation’s culture can be beneficial. That’s the way that it can effectively attract talent from respective countries, it also ensures that within an organisation there is diversity. There is a need for organisation culture to constantly be challenged and adapted as that, to me, is a sign that an organisation is open and flexible to change and that in itself is telling of an organisation’s culture.

There needs to be a feedback channel between the “original” organisation and the “new” division of it to discuss which aspects of the organisation’s culture is different and should be changed according to the country that new operations are in. In this way, there is a flatter learning curve during resocialisation as employees can identify easier with the organisation’s culture when it has been adapted to not conflict with the values and beliefs that they have been brought up with.


All in all, the “original” organisational culture’s set of beliefs will serve as a foundation for the countries that it goes into. However, with increasing globalisation, there is a need to acknowledge that cultural fragmentation within the organisation will happen and it may not always be a bad thing if it is approached with an open mind that wants to learn from it rather than excluding it completely. That attitude, will without a doubt build a better organisational culture for employees and employers alike.

What do you all think?

 

 

Social Capital and the Power of weak ties

Social cap

 

Social capital in organisations

In the previous class we learnt that social capital exists in the context of connection where there is value in social networks as connectedness and trust between people in an organisation will mean access to each other’s resources and thereby creating social capital. Social capital and network brokerage hence is valuable to an organization as it increases their resilience. I would like to share my personal experience in community leadership, which has made the concept of social capital and network brokerage very real to me, and I believe that my lessons learnt can also be applied to organizational leadership.

 

Social Capital in Community leadership

Over the span of 6 months, I volunteered with Care Corner Family Service Centre, Queenstown as a community surveyor under their Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) to do ground survey on residents and analyze how Commonwealth as an ageing district, can draw upon existing community resources, tapping on social capital to stay healthy and resilient without an over-reliance on government intervention.

EO_1105_31

Many elderly residents sit along void decks in Mei Ling Street with excessive free time and no knowledge on what else they can do to pass time. On one of the survey trips, I chatted with an elderly woman, who lives alone and spends all her free time gardening. She excitedly introduces all her herbs and plants to me, and I could tell that she was passionate and very knowledgeable in gardening. She then agreed to give gardening lessons free-of-charge, if Care Corner will start a lesson series and find a group of elderlies interested to learn about gardening. The local spectacle shop was willing to sell glasses at a lower price for the elderly, and a temple nearby was willing to give out free lunches. In this case, Care Corner was acting as a network broker, bringing different parties together to share resources and mobilize previously unrecognized assets and eventually, creating social network and building up social capital to strengthen Commonwealth as a community.

 

Social capital in organizations

Linking back to the organizational level from a community level, companies should recognize the value of business-to-business social relations in increasing their resilience especially during a period of economic crisis.

On a managerial level, social capital can likewise be built to combine knowledge and convert them into value-adding products and services. In today’s increasingly fluid knowledge-based environment, a professor from The University of Chicago, Ron Burt, predicts that managing an organization’s social capital will become one of its core competencies. An individual with high social capital are often able to have better access to information and people, hence meeting their goals faster. These people can be used as network brokers and organizations can leverage on them to build connections intra and inter-organization to enhance organizational learning and agility hence strengthening the organization, as did building social capital strengthen Commonwealth.

The strength of weak ties

In class, we also learnt that social networks consist of 2 kinds of ties – strong ties and weak ties. I would like to share a theory that is contrary to the intuitive belief that strong ties are more valuable than weak ties. According to Granovetter’s research on the “Strength of weak ties” which you can read up more on here, if you are interested, strong ties add lesser value during information search because we are likely to maintain strong ties with people who are similar to us. On the other hand, weak ties connect us to a world, which we previously are unfamiliar with. Indeed, I have noticed that the few times my mother job-hopped because of information on job postings from friends whom she seldom mention to us, instead of her close group of friends or family members. I did not give it much thought but chancing upon Granovetter’s study, I agree that weak ties can actually increase one’s mobility by facilitating information flow.

 

Implications for organisations

This is an interesting finding as in the study of Human Resources, we often learn that HR managers should create a culture that encourages strong ties between co-workers so as to foster trust and collaboration between co-workers thereby increasing social capital. This study hence offers an alternative perspective that weak ties in some cases can actually have more value than strong ties. Weak ties facilitate flow of knowledge sharing while strong ties likely exchange redundant information, as they tend to occur among people who already share similar knowledge and perspectives. Hence, organizations, especially those in dynamic industries and value change and innovation should instead foster weak ties, bringing together people with diverse opinions and various sources of information and network. Are you convinced that weak ties are indeed more valuable for organizations or do you subscribe to the traditional thinking that strong ties, building social capital and resilience benefits the organization more in the long run?

Reference:

http://orgnet.com/IHJour_XII_No5_p38_42.pdf

https://sociology.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/the_strength_of_weak_ties_and_exch_w-gans.pdf

http://www.analytictech.com/networks/weakties.htm

The horror of a bad organizational culture

Many companies strive to create a strong organizational culture where the core values of the organization are intensely held and shared among employees. In order to instil a positive and strong organizational culture, it is important for the management to provide employees with a sense of direction and expectations that allow them to be on task. Additionally, with a proper structure that has well defined roles and responsibilities, every employee would better understand what his or her duties are and the way to accomplish these tasks before the deadlines.  Besides direction, unity and identity are also factors which contribute to a positive and strong organizational culture. Unity helps to promote cohesion among employees which would further spur cooperation and open communication in the workplace; whereas the forging of a reputable identity allows the organization to build a brand image that is acknowledged and respected by all its stakeholders.

Even though a positive organizational culture is the goal of many companies, there are still many organizations out there with weak and negative organizational culture. I did my first internship at an integrated marketing firm that has an atrocious organizational culture and its bad organizational culture engendered many repercussions such as high turnover rate as well as a loss in profits. From the most evident material symbols which include the size and layout of the office and the elegance of furnishing, I was already able to somehow deduce the culture and climate of this firm on my first day of internship. The office was very messy with boxes and logistics lying around; however, none of the employees took the initiative to clear this mess. The interior of the office was already quite cramp and the mess in the office further compounded this problem, making it difficult for us to move around the office. This revealed to me that the employees in this firm did not have a sense of belonging and responsibility towards their company; because if they did, they would have volunteered to clear the office instead of just turning a blind eye towards the mess. Additionally, this showed that the firm cultivated a very individualistic culture where employees were only concerned with their own projects instead of the firm as a whole.

Besides the messy environment of the office, there was also insufficient working cubicles for the employees. Hence, newer employees and interns had to share cubicles; some of the employees were made to sit in the meeting room temporarily given that there were no more cubicles even for sharing! Thus these employees had to endure the trouble of moving in and out whenever there was a meeting to be held in the meeting room that they were not involved in. This actually placed a great disruption to their work since they often had to waste time shifting their documents and laptops in and out of the meeting room. Thus it was inevitable that the employees were not performing at their highest productivity level. Additionally, I spoke to some of the newer employees who were in their probation period and they mentioned that they were planning to leave after their probation period and were already in the midst of searching for a new job. The inability to provide employees with the most basic working conditions had led to them having the perception that their presence were dispensable and that their services were not valued by the company. The firm’s lack of emphasis on its people resulted in the formation of a weak organizational culture where employees were loosely knit and had no sense of loyalty for the company. Hence it was of no surprise that the company was facing a high turnover rate with employees leaving every  other week.

Not only was the company negligent towards its employees’ welfare, it also displayed irresponsibility towards other stakeholders, for example: its suppliers. The lack of proper organizational structure often led to confusion over which employees should take charge of payment of bills to suppliers thus an oversight occurred frequently. Therefore suppliers were often calling the office complaining that they did not receive long overdue bills. Some disgruntled suppliers even terminated their working relationships with the company since they found it difficult to be paid on time.

The structural deficiency in the company led to a poor management of the office environment as well as a breed of irresponsibility towards stakeholders, which includes its employees. This eventually cultivated a negative and weak organizational culture which was ineffective for working which explained why the company has been experiencing losses for the past few years. Without a proper revamp to its culture and structure, I wouldn’t be surprised if the company were to go out of business soon.