Cultures and Organizations

Sep 10

One of the assigned texts for my current course in global management is Cultures and Organizations, which carries the catchy subtitle Software of the Mind. As they setup the book they naturally provide details about the quantitative methods used to analyze the data presented. This includes both the methods and the models, as well as the evolution of the same throughout the research. What’s more interesting is their take on nurture vs. nature, which is to say that they explore the relationship between genetics and social influence. At the foundation they place values, which they argue are learned extremely young. Building on this foundation of values are practices and objects such as rituals, heroes and symbols. The research focuses primarily on the statistical trend, leaving analysis of deviations to a minimum. Diluted Values & Cultural Relativism In the introductory chapter, The Concept of Culture, they highlight some of the ways in which culture change, both over time and with respect to other cultures. One concept they identify is Moral Circles, going further to define some common boundary markers for moral circles. A moral circle is a peer group within which all members have a common moral agreement. Typical demarcations for a moral circle are religion or philosophy. A very interesting observation they put forth about moral circles is that they have a tendency to expand to include more and more people, or even non-people as members. They caution that such vast circles dilute the rights and duties of all members, concluding that “Most empires have disintegrated from the inside.” In contrast to this warning about overly inclusive moral circles, they argue in favor of cultural relativism quoting Claude Lévi-Strauss as saying: “Cultural relativism affirms that one culture has no absolute criteria for judging the activities of another culture as “low” or “noble”. However, every culture can and should apply such judgment to its own activities, because its members are actors as well as observers.” In this they mean to suggest simply that while within a culture or moral circle, a group may be subjectively critical of itself, it is not as easy to be objectively critical of another group or culture. Comparison of values and norms across cultural boundaries, if it’s...

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Chavez and Castro are Dead

Sep 02

When considering the last four decades of American politics (speaking broadly of the American continent(s)), two extraordinarily influential figures are Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. Ideologically, many of their political inclinations were formed by the very country which they spent much of their lives, and political fortunes, attempting to undermine, namely, the United States of America (USA). Their dislike for what they perceived as United States imperialism shaped not only their personal convictions, but through them it influenced an entire region and generation. Political The preeminence of the United States economy over the past century has had an understandably profound influence on the political landscape both domestically and abroad. From this position of leverage, the US economic engine has extended its influence outward to shape many developing and emerging economies. Objectively, it would be difficult to assign a definite positive or negative to the shape the US influence has promoted, but subjectively, it has occasioned both. In the case of Fidel Castro of Cuba, he adopted a very strong anti-imperialist posture, which drove him at an early age to fight against United States involvement in Cuba. Though this initial attempt was unsuccessful, he spent the following years organizing a group that would overthrow the Cuban government, allow him to assume political and military power and align with the communist Soviet Union. His socialist agenda was a further departure from western influence and encompassed health care, education and the press. Hugo Chavez experienced similar early setbacks in his initial attempts to seize power, but eventually he succeeded in introducing a new political party referred to as the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. His political focus was more decidedly socialist, though he did align himself with the Castro regime in Cuba and Evo Morales in Bolivia. Social Socially, one possible motivation for a dislike of US influence may have to do with perceived inequality economically. Poverty, when contrasted with great power and wealth, can have an appearance of unfairness. It’s conceivable that the seemingly disparate economic circumstances of the US and Cuba, or other Central and South American countries, could promote a socialist viewpoint. It must be tempting as a leader to want to solve problems for the people rather than direct...

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Windows 8 Ignores Computing Culture

Jul 08

There has been a lot of press surrounding the release of Windows 8. Good and bad press are expected when a new product, especially one that deviates significantly from an established norm, is released to market. In the case of Windows 8, the amount of negative press may have taken Microsoft a bit by surprise. In May, the Wall Street Journal published an article highlighting the disconnect between Microsoft’s vision of computing and users expectations. Two notable disconnects include the developing gap in computing use cases and what appears to be a design by committee failure. Culture of Computing The culture of computing has evolved rapidly over the last three decades. This evolution had been spurred by both computing power and the cost for that computing power. As computing power increased, so did the quality of the graphics, audio and a broad range of uses that weren’t possible before. These include processing large amounts of data in applications such as spreadsheets and databases. The cost of that computing power has also come down significantly, which has created a consumer market where there was previously a majority business market. As high end computing made it into the hands of the consumer, the typical business use cases were replaced with entertainment and hobby use cases. Rather than spreadsheets, consumers wanted to listen to music and watch video. The ends to which that computing power was applied began to change significantly. The growing interconnectedness of the Internet meant that much of the computing power previously required on a personal computer was being moved onto servers, which allowed consumers to do more of what they wanted with less computing power and less specific computing know how. During much of this evolution, Microsoft’s focus on the desktop operating system maintained its focus on original business use cases and did very little with the emerging consumer use cases. Meanwhile, visionaries like Steve Jobs saw that most consumer use cases could be accommodated with very little computing power and a smaller screen. Along came the iPhone and iPad. A major shortcoming related to Microsoft’s design of Windows 8 is that it failed to recognize that the smartphone and tablet computing market serve a different set of...

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