A fascinating aspect of an organization’s culture is its attitude towards employees. Some expect employees to conform to group norms: dress codes, speech, and conduct. One is required to follow standard practices for executing work, use the same methods/tools, and form teams to achieve results.

Some enterprises adopt the middle path: blend collectivism with individual freedom. And some others nurture individualism. They allow employees to work with their own strengths, talents, and personalities. Denis Pennel, author of Work for yourself, asserts, “People want their job to look like themselves, and fulfill them… They want the job to adapt to their own individuality.”

Echoing these ideas, leadership expert and organizational consultant Warren Bennis states that in collaboration/ teamwork, people fear three things:

  • Losing their identity
  • Losing their intellectual mastery
  • Losing their individualism

He recommends, “Know your employees in ways that actually matter to them and unlock their greatness.” Does this make a difference? Yes. Here’s why an individualistic attitude can benefit your organization.

  • Promotes creativity

Research by Jack A. Goncalo of Cornell University, and Barry Staw of the University of California, highlights creativity as an outcome of individualism. They placed students in collectivistic and individualistic groups, and asked them to find creative solutions to a problem. The result? The individualistic groups presented more ideas. Why? The researchers suggest, “Because individualistic values can encourage uniqueness, it might be useful when creativity is a desired outcome.”

  • Improves sense of responsibility

Individualism spurs ownership and independence. Many Amazon employees review its culture as being individualistic. There’s an incredible amount of responsibility from day one of their jobs. “Amazon forces you to be a self-starter by providing you with tools to drive your own career, but minimal guidance or support,” say employee reviews. With a greater sense of responsibility comes efficiency and productivity.

  • Increases possibilities

An individualistic outlook treats each person as a new possibility. Each team member strives to perform his/ her task to the best of their abilities and accomplish goals. The many individual goals then add up to a large number of achievements. Economics Professors at University of California, Berkeley, Yuriy Gorodnichenko and Gerard Roland state that individualism has a dynamic effect on growth through innovation. The evidence of this effect: their studies on culture and institutions. They find that individualistic cultures encourage innovation. Such cultures also accept and are open to new products or services, which has a positive effect on the income of the innovators and companies. 

When choosing to work with an organization, most people evaluate its culture to assess the degree of individualism prevalent. No surprise that millennials and individualism are almost synonymous. By 2025, 75% of workforces will consist of millennials, who believe that the economy will continue to become competitive, and one has to create individual ways of working. Are you geared up to meet 2025?

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