Forward-thinking Cultures

Mansour Javidan in his HBR article July-August 2007 Forward-Thinking Cultures recounts his research on cultural bias toward future orientation. Future orientation is "the extent to which a culture encourages and rewards such behavior as delaying gratification, planning and investing in the future.

The research suggests that westerners, Taiwanese, and Singaporeans have more future-oriented than the Chinese. For organizations with a focus on long-term planning, Chinese employees can be left disillusioned by the process and disempowered by their ability to impact such long-term outcomes.

As Javidan suggests, the key is to translate any longer range objectives into short-term goals. Equally important is to link rewards and career growth to these short-term goals. Continuously communicating the linkage between the short-term goals and longer range objectives, and gradually increasing time horizons will help your team feel as though they have can impact the organization's outcomes.

What experiences do you have in cultural disconnects related to future orientation?

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