Another interesting piece from the latest Harvard Business Review: Mansour Javidan's short article on forward-thinking cultures. It grows out of a much bigger global study Javidan has been conducting on culture and leadership.
By surveying over 17,000 middle managers in 61 societies, we have been able to discern clear differences in nine key areas. One of these is what we call “future orientation,” or the extent to which a culture encourages and rewards such behavior as delaying gratification, planning, and investing in the future….
We found that societies vary greatly in how oriented they actually are to the long term, but in most cultures people’s personal values and aspirations are similar and quite future oriented. What’s more, most people feel their cultures aren’t as forward thinking as they should be.
In our study, Singapore emerged as the most future oriented of cultures, followed by Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Malaysia. The least future oriented were Russia, Argentina, Poland, and Hungary. Squarely in the middle were Germany, Taiwan, Korea, and Ireland. Even more important, however, is our further finding that the greater a society’s future orientation, the higher its average GDP per capita and its levels of innovativeness, happiness, confidence, and (as the chart shows) competitiveness.
Source: Mansour Javidan, "Forward-Thinking Cultures," Harvard Business Review (July/August 2007)
I can say that Javidan's conclusions track reasonably well with our (or at least my own) more anecdotal experience at the Institute: we have a disproportionate number of clients or inquiries from Singapore (Paul Saffo, invoking Buckminster Fuller, writes about "Spaceship Singapore"), Switzerland, and Scandinavia.
The chart also wouldn't be a bad proxy for investment (or at least spending) on government futures and forecasting.