Rule Makers, Rule Breakers

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I very much enjoyed listening to Rule Makers, Rule Breakers by Michele Gelfand, on Audiobooks. It presents a new perspective of the world. The key is that there are two basic kinds of societies: tight and loose. Tight societies (Singapore, Japan, Germany) have stricter social norms and less tolerance for variant behavior (including entrepreneurs and innovators). Loose societies (like the US, Poland, Brazil) have more fun and more chaos, more drug abuse, etc.

For me, one of the highlights is a 2x2 matrix in which she shows which countries are tight/loose and successful/unsuccessful economically. This shows that all four quadrants are relatively well represented - tightness does not mean more GDP growth per capita, and looseness does not mean less. I won’t spoil it -you should see it in Gelfand’s book.

Another big chapter focuses on the United States and how a state-by-state understanding using this tight/loose spectrum can really help understand elections, law enforcement, incarceration, religious tolerance, and much more. It would be helpful to Arnold Ventures to use this lens to look at each state, even each county.

Does it apply to companies? Yes, it does. Some companies have tight cultures, others have loose cultures. Mergers between companies with these two kinds of cultures do not do well. Understand what you’re getting into when you join a company - a loose person probably won’t fit within a tight-culture company.

It’s always helpful to get another data-driven view on a world you think you already know.