Culture Beyond Your Own Walls

In a New York Times editorial, Paul Krugman makes a great point about how none of us, or our companies, live in a vacuum —

“The point is that successful companies — or, at any rate, companies that make a large contribution to a nation’s economy — don’t exist in isolation. Prosperity depends on the synergy between companies, on the cluster, not the individual entrepreneur.”

So, how does a company’s culture equip them for being an economic leader and for working effectively with other companies?

“…Germany remains a highly successful exporter even with workers who cost, on average, $44 an hour — much more than the average cost of American workers. And this success has a lot to do with the support its small and medium-sized companies — the famed Mittelstand — provide to each other via shared suppliers and the maintenance of a skilled work force.”

There are aspects that the company controls about themselves — how does their internal culture set them up to work with other entities outside of themselves.  Is the culture one of collaborative and open discussion with; suppliers, workers, and the market in order to innovate and stay on top.  Is the culture one where the company thinks they need to control everything closely in the executive ranks in order to stay on top.  You can probably guess which of these cultures Michelle and I think will be more effective and have a better chance of long-term survival!

There are also aspects that the company can’t control that are outside of themselves — what is the governmental structure and the market structure — how does it allow companies to work with each other.

“… believes that economies succeed solely thanks to heroic entrepreneurs; the other has nothing against entrepreneurs, but believes that entrepreneurs need a supportive environment, and that sometimes government has to help create or sustain that supportive environment.

And the view that it takes more than business heroes is the one that fits the facts.”

These external forces may constrain or support a company, and the challenge is to figure out how to best work within them and be successful according to your own definition.  Culture that is beyond your own walls will impact you.

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