‘The Russians are Ready for Innovations’
On April 6th a session on ‘Culture and Innovations’ as part of the XII International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development took place at the HSE.
The session was chaired by Nadezhda Lebedeva, Head of the HSE International Laboratory for Socio-Cultural Studies. The first speaker was Peter Schmidt, Professor at the University of Giessen and the second Head of this Laboratory, with his presentation on ‘Culture, Values and Innovation: First Steps of a Meta-Analysis’.
Peter Schmidt’s work was initiated by a debate which began in certain scientific journals in 2006 and is still continuing, on the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) project. Several contributors did not realize that GLOBE used three essential constructs taken from Hofstede's publications but used in a sense entirely different from his: values, practices, and organizational culture. This meant that they had no answer for the question in Scmidt’s 2006 review: what did GLOBE really measure?
Peter Schmidt told the audience that the term ‘meta-analysis’ was introduced by American sociologist G. Glass in the 1970s. He defined meta-analysis as ‘the statistical analysis of a large collection of analysis results from individual studies for the purpose of integrating the findings’. Speaking of the problems formulation stage, Peter Schmidt said that to specify the problem to be investigated it is necessary to start with a statement, which will guide the selection of research studies. The problem specification process is an iterating process, since it starts with the statement and will be clarified while information will be found and analysed from relevant studies. In addition to this, it is necessary to identify the form of the research findings to be meta-analysed: the findings must be in the form of quantitative data.
Meta-analysis of this work involved the concept of values which has been conceptualized and measured by different theorists including S. Schwarz, R. Inglehart, G. Hofstede, C. O’Reily, D. Denison and A. Mishra. A number of hypotheses were selected for testing, among them: ‘Societies (organizations) with higher power distance will be less innovative than societies (organizations) with shorter power distance’ (G. Hofstede) and ‘The higher the openness to change, the higher the innovation’ (S. Schwarz). Three tools for data collection were selected: computerized bibliographic databases (Gesellschaft Sozialwissenschaftlicher Infrastruktureinrichtungen e.V., SOSIG and others), Google Scholar and expert consultations.
Summarizing his presentation, Peter Schmidt shared his conclusions. First, in the phase of problem formulation in meta-analysis the comparison of theories is missing in the present textbooks. Second, Google Scholar has proved very efficient at finding papers compared with data- banks. And third, for the relationship of values and innovation it is necessary to continue the search to get enough correlations matrices. Particularly, the researchers will look for the literature which is, as yet, unavailable.
In their questions to Peter Schmidt, the session participants tried to find the link between the academic research he described and real life. Peter Schmidt admitted that any method has its limitations, and to reveal the causality deeper research is needed, which will involve laboratory experiments and field intervention studies.
The second paper at the session, ‘Socio-cultural factors of the attitudes towards innovation’, was presented by Nadezhda Lebedeva. The author attempted to determine the correlation between values (Schwarz) and the attitude towards innovations in society. N. Lebedeva suggested the participants compare the innovation indices in Russia, China and Canada. It is interesting that Russia’s innovation index is more than 10 points lower compared with that of China, while the innovation capacity indices of the two countries are almost on the same level. This shows that innovation potential in Russia is not fully realized.
Different researchers have proved that individualistic and non-hierarchic (‘horizontal’) societies are more creative and innovative. This research has indicated some cultural and psychological factors influencing innovation and attitudes towards it. These factors include a willingness to avoid hierarchy, a high level of trust (social capital) and decentralization of power. Some psychological characteristics of the members of individualistic cultures are also important: autonomy, responsibility, mobility, aspiration for success, desire of encouragement, and reliance on one’s own opinion.
In more modernized cultures, people can be motivated towards innovation by values reflecting personal independence and activeness, and in a more traditional Chinese culture those values are less well represented and cannot be the main motivation for innovation. In all the three culture the values of openness to change are a strong motivation for innovation. The values of conservation (tradition, conformity, security) are obstacles for innovative activity in all three cultures. The presence of culture-specific links between the values and innovation attitudes raises a practical problem of how to implememt innovations taking into account cultural specifics.
According to the author, the following measures are needed to stimulate innovations in Russia: the introduction of the value of independency and innovativeness (basing on the satisfaction brought by creative work) into the educational system; the rebuilding the whole system of education from verbatim learning to generating and the ability to defend and implement new ideas (from an initial idea to the final product); special attention should be paid to the formation of skills of insistence related to one’s own ideas and non-conformism; the support of the creation of egalitarian organizational structures in innovative industries; the creation of teams led by innovators, hte support of their innovative activities (creation of innovative climate); the education of managers and the government itself should be creative and not afraid to take risks.
At the end of her speech, Nadezhda Levedeva shared an interesting fact with the audience: according to research, while in Russia hierarchic structures are prevalent, Russians themselves would like to work in egalitarian structures, which proves that they are ready for innovation.
Maria Pustovoyt, specially for the HSE News Service
Photos by Nikita Benzoruk