• Symen A. Brouwers

Creating Care in Cultural Change and Stability

Updated: May 19, 2019

The bridge between cultural change and stability is a vital challenge for today’s professionals and their managers. Transcending this division between two pull factors requires expert knowledge and reflects a professional stance coated in honesty, serving leadership, and transparency.


Various African countries and other developing countries around the world show some of the highest levels of innovation and entrepreneurship found today. New technology and simple products that can speak to a rich and complex demographic have really raised the bar, often as a testing ground for the rest of the world. The high economic development that accompanies the innovation in these countries quickly leads to questions about cultural change. Is cultural change possible and does it really stick? Is it desirable and warranted?

The reality for most young adults profiting from high economic development is that they are caught between tradition and modernity. Between stability associated with family and community and the change associated with work and income. And both might pull at the young adult, both leaving ideas and wants in the heart and mind. A beautiful illustration of this idea can be found in The Black Book by Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk: Dreaming of walking down the embankment from Istanbul into the Black Sea, the main protagonist in the novel passes remnants of past civilizations, all preserved next one another; gone, but still there.

Well-being outcomes for young professionals in developing countries are negative. Not only does loss of healthy social grounding makes them feel disconnected, but access to loans and credit cards increases stress and worry. Balancing the constraints and affordances provided by stability and change is a true industrial psychology challenge: Effort and work in the cultural realm to satisfy psychological needs and meet high expectations, looking for stability in one phase, change the next, and perhaps revitalization later again. Never forgetting or saying goodbye to old beliefs and values, but keeping them safe for reconnection with family and tradition when it is necessary.


Cultural change and stability are at the heart of cross-cultural psychology. Premise here is that the defining characteristic of culture is that it is shared, by members of a single generation, and from one generation to the next. Sharing the same values, norms, and beliefs provides stability. Mechanisms of sharing are also not a mystery. Through the uniquely human capacity for understanding the intentions behind the behaviors actors display, people are able to imitate others, often those that appear to be successful in their work or life, and make successful behavior their own.

Cultural change that results from economic growth and large scale innovation, can be understood from this perspective of imitation and sharing. What once was a successful model, in a particular economic day and age, may have lost its value in new times, thus requiring the intelligent individual to find new models or learn by trial and error, inventing possible behaviors for new economic days. Managers are also pushing workplace culture ahead. Employees are not protected in traditional career trajectories, where they remain with the same company for most of their working life, but are pushed to excel, to show engagement and develop personal leadership.


How can we preserve and coordinate all our values and beliefs, the one’s we cherish now and the one’s we leave behind, perhaps for later. In Pamuk’s The Black Book they were in a dream, subject to reminiscence and strong stories. We, together, can create a culture of care, keeping values and beliefs alive, up in the air for all to appreciate.


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