Indian Culture is Impeding Innovation. Literally. Do You Agree?

“There’s a tendency in India for employees to tell you what they think you want to hear. You sometimes hear “yes” to a question before you’ve even explained it,” says Professor Michael Morris.

Michael Morris is the Chavkin-Chang Professor of Leadership in the Management Division and a senior scholar at the Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business at Columbia Business School.

culture innovation

Stopping Innovation

Do you agree to Professor Morris’s statement?

I’m with him. 100%.

I took a step back to think about my actions  in past situations. After reading his article on UnFollow the Leader at Columbia Business School Blog, its clear that cultural different plays a major role in reacting to orders.

Cultural patterns of behavior can arise from internal beliefs; that is, Indians may defer out of a belief that authorities actually do know best. Or, patterns can arise from perceived social norms; Indians may defer because they believe that their fellow Indians expect this behavior.

This role of external expectations in our behavior may seem at first counter-intuitive, yet upon reflection we can recognize that many of our daily behaviors (putting on a tie for work, driving on the right side of the street, reading the morning paper) are adopted to mesh with the expectations of others, rather than out of personal commitments about these matters.

Over the years I’m exposed to American Culture. I think differently with mix of American and Indian Culture.

That’s one of the advantages of getting education from a foreign country. You tend to see things differently. But, at times, I have made decisions in the way, what others would have liked.

Professor Morris conducted an experiment to test his theory along with post doctoral scholar Krishna Savani and N.V.R. Naidu of the M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology in Karnataka.

Conclusion of their research

Morris says the findings have implications for both Indian managers striving to lead innovative startups and Western managers leading the Indian divisions of global firms.

Instead of trying to convince Indian employees of the importance of dissent and innovation, targeting their personal beliefs and values, innovation leaders would do better to target their perceptions of the social norm in their community.

Interesting experiment right?

What do you think about this research about Indian Culture impeding innovation?

  • Do you behave differently when you have a boss or an authority figure directing your work?
  • Do you speak-up  and challenge decision in meetings at work?
  • If you were to work without a manager, can you be innovative?

Next – This is Why Indian IT Companies Have Surplus Employees But Lacks Talent

5 Comments

  1. Adithya on June 20, 2017 at 2:02 AM

    The link referred in this article to Columbia Business School link has expired.
    please refer to this link:
    https://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/articles/ideas-work/un-follow-leader

  2. Krishna Chaitanya Kalaparti on October 6, 2012 at 1:32 AM

    Hi guys, this’ll be my first comment in the HSB. I’m really very proud of Raghu for having started this wonderful venture. Whole hearted thanks for that.

    Coming to the post, i think, we indians, in the history, have been ruled by many kings, then the britishers came in and treated us as slaves.

    After all that, now, when we go 4 the offices, we have the fear of our bosses, as to, what will happen for our appraisels etc.,

    So, based on my little experience, i can say, as long as an employee has a fear towards his boss, his best doesn’t come out.

    Nice post Raghu. 🙂

  3. T.C.Chandran on October 2, 2012 at 9:24 PM

    I believe, that the reason why most of the Indian employees trained in India follow the leader implicitly, is because of the fear of losig their jobs if they question the authority of their bosses or try to express their own beliefs.For most of the Indians,keeping their jobs is very important.Unlike in western countries,the managers in India do not take kindly to the suggestions of their sub-ordinate employees,if the suggestions of the employees are contrary to the boss’s own beliefs and ideas.Particularly in a meeting, if any one questions the direction of the boss, then the boss thinks that he has “lost face”and that is very hard for him to take.Many brilliant and creative ideas are strifled and shelved because of this problem in the Indian industry.

    The only remedy for this, I believe, is to train the bosses to be more open and capable of inviting healthy criticisms from his colleagues and
    sub-ordinates.The bosses need to know that each idea from any quarter, however small and worthless it may seem, is worthy of a fair consideration.

    • Raghu on October 2, 2012 at 11:51 PM

      These bosses were once entry level employees. But, not sure why they change. Hope, this article reaches to several managers in India.

  4. Naren on October 2, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    Absolutely true. We are brought up in an authoritarian society, we are most of the time forced to accept many things. It does change a bit from place to place but we are taught to heed to our elders and accept them as role models from childhood, unless we change this attitude…innovation is not gonna happen at grassroots.

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