Maybe I, as an American, like in any culture, have blinders on. Maybe, despite after more than twenty-five years in Germany, I still have a national-cultural blindspot.
Perhaps we in the U.S. are just as interested in norms and standards as in Germany. We seek them out, want them, want to force them onto reality, even onto other people. But I don’t think we do.
Even if so, not as much as the Germans do. Perhaps the “rich and powerful” in the U.S. force their norms and standards on the “common people” in such a clever way that they don’t even notice it.
I do notice, however, time and again, in discussions with many Americans how much they resist gaining distance, separating themselves from a given situation, in order to get abstract, to recognize patterns, deeper lying drivers, even principles which are at play.
They react to my questions as if they did not quite understand them, or never considered such questions, or wonder why in the world I would even ask them.
At first I thought “Ok, they simply don’t understand me intellectually” or “They clearly have never thought about these things before” or “Hmm, they have so little experience working with another culture that they have never made the contrast.”
Maybe it’s something else. Maybe the Americans I have been speaking to think: “What strange questions. So theoretical. So far away from the situation on the ground, from reality.”
I think Americans quickly and rather matter of fact say to themselves – or to me – “Deductive. Inductive. Who cares? We’re in business to make money. And we do that by meeting the needs of our customers.”
They are saying in order words, our processes – how we do the work – aren’t deduced vertically from some principles. They are rooted in customer needs, in the free market, in competition with other companies.
Everything we do – the what and the how – is oriented on our customers. The overarching fact – the reality of things – is the dynamic between customer and supplier. The market – all of those interactions – has the say, and not some principles floating up in the clouds.