What triggers you to make a difference? Culture change and business ethics

My Moroccan- Dutch kick-box instructor asked me what I did for a living, and when I told him I worked in business ethics, he immediately told me he could do with some advice as well.  He has an interesting background in his career: as a kick-box champion in Europe, he set up a series of fight galas and has also launched several gyms in the Hague serving hundreds of men and women to become strong and fit.  What he wants to do, is change the perspective of the people coming to his gym, their capabilities, their limits, but also he works on respect and discipline for youth; you never hear an inappropriate word in the gym.  What triggers him, is the possibility to make a change in their individual minds, and I tell him that he is also changing in a way a culture if he would want to. But its quite hard to talk during sparring, I get hit too much and will have to follow up the coming months in a punch-free environment.

There are two ways to work on culture change in an organisation or business,

1. Change a culture through focusing on individualism, personal responsibility. Advantage is that you are working on individual outcomes of professionals operating and making critical decisions on their own: they have to behave well, even if no one is looking. Disadvantage of individualism in itself, is that it could possibly trigger an egocentric attitude, people want the best for themselves, not the company, team or the society, and make decisions that are not necessarily the morally best. We could say this approach is taken more in the West, Europe and the Netherlands the most.  We can also see that lone professionals with a high individual responsibility can make big mistakes (2008 Societe General trading loss anyone?)

2. Change a culture through focusing on the organisation, and team responsibility. Advantage here is that the group is focused on each other, and the ethical performance as a whole, making sure everyone behaves well. Disadvantage is if the group is going in the wrong direction, it is difficult for an individual to step out of the group process and make a difference. In China, focusing on the group process is the starting point for any discussion on this, as Chinese tend to see themselves foremost as part of a larger community. This makes it difficult to be a whistle blower, and to point out individual responsibility for keeping up safety regulations, even when no one is looking.

We do not have to make a choice between the two approaches to change a culture, what I want to talk about is what would trigger you or your group to make a change? What drives you to do so? Do you want to change the culture for your individual needs, or the greater good? Or for the best of company?

For more information: http://www.fightclub070.nl

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