With Great Equality… Comes High Power Distance?

In the discussion about socialist/collectivist societies there is often an idea that socialism brings and fosters equality. Opponents of collectivism usually reference Animal Farm, but the parable is often chided as not being academic enough.

And to be clear in this post on not railing on or championing any side of that discussion. I think the discussion warrants improvement. To me the question isn’t an absolute of socialism/collectivism or individualism. It’s a discussion about where to draw the line in a way that respects others and their obligation to a wider society.

So, I think I’ve found an academically palatable source and a perspective that might be worth adding to the discussion.

The source, Gert Hofstede who in 1980 published his cultural research and changed the way we see cultures throughout the world. His current formula involves seeing the world across 6 dimensions including a spectrums of Collectivism/Individualism and Power Distance (Low/High).

He and his staff have articulated these in the maps below.

One thing I didn’t notice while I was studying this in college is that the areas of the world that are collectivist seem to have a high power distance culture.

Hofstede’s research doesn’t give us precise answers on why this correlation may exist, but the evidence that such a correlation exists should be a part of the discussion on socialism/collectivism. Russia, Venezuela, and China are all pretty telling in comparison to most of Europe, the US, and Australia.

One thing is still true. Those who would prefer another culture other than the one they are living in have plenty of options and should be welcome to move to wherever they want to.

Change vs Innovation

I’m often surprised how English assigns ownership to people instead of objects and things.  For example in German when someone is hot (temperature) they would say that they have heat.  If they were cold the phrase would literally translate to the person having cold.

In Spanish if you dropped your phone you wouldn’t say that you dropped your phone.  You would say that your phone dropped.

Since our mental narrative is in our native language those who speak English might be more culturally programmed to see how their actions impact the world around them.

Within English we do have a diversity of words and their meanings.  For example, the word change implies a difference between one state and another with the same objects/actors involved.  Innovation on the other hand implies that there needs to be a conscious choice made as to the type of change that occurs.

So, with that difference it’s worth asking, do you innovate, or do you change?  Do your teams innovate, or do they change?

then friday

Friday’s at work are pretty chill. There’s fewer people on the road headed to work in the morning. Fewer people are in the office and the people that are there are at the end of a long week and usually have a story to tell.

I like listening to their stories.

Buy why is friday capitalized?

Turns out the internet has an answer.

Certainly all the days of the week are proper names for those days. They are in turn named after astronomical objects or gods:

  • Sunday – the Sun
  • Monday – the Moon
  • Tuesday – Tiw (Mars)
  • Wednesday – Wodan or Odin (Mercury)
  • Thursday – Thor (Jupiter)
  • Friday – Frige (Venus)
  • Saturday – Saturn

the bus driver bonus

In our town finding school bus drivers is hard.

The company in charge offers a hefty bonus for new drivers with licenses. For various reasons it’s not a job I’m interested in having. One reason is that with 4 kids, both my wife and I each feel like we’re bus drivers already.

So far this year we’ve done trips to wrestling, tennis, basketball, trumpet, choir, orthodontist, urgent care, and church group. All instead of pursuing the things we see as adding value. I’m sure other readers have longer lists. This one may not be as diverse but there’s a lot of repeat business in what’s summarized above.

The bonus the bus company offers gets paid after a certain amount of time with the company. The bonus you get paid as a parent comes after a certain amount of time as well. Like last night when my oldest boy talked to me about his future–nothing special–but he shared his feelings. He thought about his words.

I once heard that parenting isn’t always about quality time, but quantity time.

Quantity leads to quality opportunities.

The 1888 fund

Yesterday a delightful staffer at Utah State University’s Alumni office asked me if I would donate $18.88/month for 12 months. The money (she graciously explained) would go towards helping students with financial risk so they could continue on with school.

It sounded like a noble cause, but the staffer was only giving me a part of the story. She wasn’t explaining how this impacted other systems at the school.

We did not discuss my concerns about how students would be selected and determined worthy for the gift. We did not discuss how the program would be advertised so students could become aware of the program. We did not discuss the current health of the fund or its track record.

My issue isn’t with helping people. I absolutely believe in being charitable and I practice what I preach. I learned from the Army Emergency Relief fund that even if a charity has $343,000,000 of assets for a population of only ~ 945,000 people you’ll still ask that same population for money without bothering to tell them the fund is healthy.

Goldratt taught the world that contributing to any part of a system other than the bottleneck is useless. How do I know that this fund addresses the bottleneck?

I personally believe that flow, feedback, and innovation are part of any system. Creating structure to impede these naturally processes damages the effectiveness of the overall system and its ability to adapt to the future. Would this fund impede or assist with the flow, feedback, and innovation of the systems that allow the University to perform?

In particular, as tuition has risen among colleges over the years (and to be fair, USU is not as bad as other options) how would increasing the money supply that could be spent on tuition impact the feedback loops which help to incentivize keeping tuition low? Those who have to leave their educational for temporary financial setbacks could be serving a much greater purpose than they realize. They’re a valuable part of the feedback loop to keep down costs at universities. I just couldn’t see a compelling argument to disrupt that process.