🚨 ------ Click to watch the video referenced in the intro. My guest today is Dr. , a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Gelfand is a cultural psychologist and uses field, experimental,...
Click HERE to watch the video referenced in the intro.
My guest today is Dr. Michele Gelfand, a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Gelfand is a cultural psychologist and uses field, experimental, computational, and neuroscience methods to understand the evolution of culture--as well as its multilevel consequences for human groups. She’s also the author of Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire the World, which is the focus of our conversation today.
Coaches at all levels talk about building and creating the kind of culture that can produce wins, but what does that really mean? There is no one better to talk to about that than Michele. In this episode, she explains the framework she uses in the book to understand the difference between tight and loose cultures. She covers how social norms dictate whether a culture leans either tight or loose and the advantages and disadvantages of each. The episode is full of examples of companies and how they fit along this spectrum, including United Airlines, Uber, and her current work with the U.S. Navy.
Her Harvard Business Review paper on the Amazon/Whole Foods acquisition
(2:21) - How she became a cultural psychologist
(3:38) - What led her to write Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire the World
(7:00) - How social norms help define cultures
(9:00) - The strengths and weaknesses of both tight and loose cultures
(12:20) - Advice for coaches on self-diagnosing where they fit on the tight-loose spectrum
(17:10) - Examples of organizations and where they fit within this framework
(24:30) - How to use this framework when hiring or looking to decide what organization is the best fit for you
(27:00) - How to handle your culture leaning too far to either end of the tight-loose spectrum
(29:30) - Her work with the U.S. Navy and how they are trying to implement some looseness within their culture
(37:30) - Parenting advice based on the tight-loose framework
(41:30) - End of episode questions
1. What’s 1 book every coach should read?
2. Who is one person you’d want to hear as a guest on this podcast?
3. What’s one area you’re looking to improve in over the next year?
4. What’s popular advice you hear people say that you think is wrong?
Get to the task when negotiating. Her research shows that you actually need to get to know the person first so you signal that you respect them and gain their trust.
5. What advice do you have for young coaches who are listening to this?
Continue to search for your passion
6. What’s the darkest moment you experienced professionally and how did you overcome it?
Trying to get her paper on this topic published in Science. She got through it by having fun and saying she’d wear a costume if the paper was approved to be published
“All cultures have both tight and loose elements, but we could think about cultures in terms of their default. Do they lean tight or loose on this continuum?”
“What we know from our research is that groups that get too extreme, either too tight or too loose, actually are really dysfunctional and that applies to nations, to organizations, and I would imagine also to sports teams. And for different reasons. When you have a lot of super tight rules, people feel uncomfortable questioning them. They feel like they’re walking on eggshells. Then we have less chance for catching mistakes and being willing to express them. And on the flip side, when you have too much looseness, it’s total chaos. I think back to the definition of social norms. Then we have no ability to coordinate and it’s a mess, and…we need some degree of both in any social system.”
“So I think that’s a really important thing, this kind of tension between freedom and rules and constraints. And I think that the best, most healthy systems are able to be able to adapt to the context and deploy tight and loose when necessary.”