A paradox in France between the concept of democracy and power to the people and the hierarchical management style that so typifies French industry.

Last week was Bastille Day in France and as I listened several times to the words of the Marsaillaise it struck me that there is a real paradox in France between the concept of democracy and power to the people which somehow these words represent and the hierarchical management style that so typifies French industry.

A recent report in les Echos

suggested that France needs more independent minded innovation in its biomedical research facilities and blames the deficiency on the rigid French education system. To quote Alain Perez and as translated by my colleague John Gaynard @ jfitzgaynard

“ An education that is too conventional is not compatible with scientific creativity, which requires imagination and non-conformity to get away from the beaten path.”

Whilst I would to some extent agree with this, I would also suggest that when a workforce is micro managed and has little freedom to come up with ideas, or to challenge existing ideas and norms then creativity and therefore innovation cannot flourish.

France as reported by Hofstede has a hierarchical approach to management (high power distance) and as a result many people report that they are micro managed with little freedom for independent thought and action.

If people are to be empowered to come up with ideas and follow these through then this high hierarchy where micro management is rife has to change. Teresa Amabile of HBS (of whom I have already written) suggests that giving people autonomy around process fosters creativity because it heightens their intrinsic motivation and sense of ownership.

So back to the paradox – in a country in which people are ready to protest and fight for their liberty and rights on a general scale, why do they accept to be managed in a way which closes down their freedom and is not motivating?

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