Independence and Collectivism

If inventors are to move from designing objects to designing systems (see yesterday’s post), then we need to explore the spectrum of thinking between the individualist perspective and a collective perspective.

In the West, we are known for our rugged individualism. It’s a good thing in that it’s the drive that inspires us to fight for human rights. But it also leads to selfishness and inflated egos.

In the East, people are known for their collectivist mindset. This mindset is good in that it drives cooperation and holistic thinking. But it may be bad if it denies individual rights.

I’m not suggesting that we in the West make a shift from individual to collectivist thinking. I am suggesting that we explore and become more fluid in the spectrum of thinking between these two perspectives. There are benefits to be gained both in quality of life and in innovation. From a long piece in BBC Future:

People in more collectivist societies tend to be more ‘holistic’ in the way they think about problems, focusing more on the relationships and the context of the situation at hand, while people in individualistic societies tend to focus on separate elements and to consider situations as fixed and unchanging.

If we work on thinking about relationships and contexts and situations, then we can more easily understand problems from a systems perspective and design solutions that are more like infrastructure changes and less like band-aids.


The quote above comes from this article: How East and West Think in Profoundly Different Ways, BBC Future, Jan 2017

Yesterday’s post: From Objects to Systems




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