Many Asian countries have consistently been on a trajectory towards global success since Japans’ economic boom in the 1980s to the more recent rise of the Indian and Chinese economies. According to Scott Anthony in his story for the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, The Asian Innovation Century, Again, a cultural mindset steeped in traditional Asian values will hinder the region’s continued success. Anthony highlights three cultural mentalities he believes the region must change in order to realize its full potential. All three of these notions are arguably Western – who’s to say Asian countries won’t continue to progress on their own diverse and unique agendas? Or have they gotten to where they are today with the help of Western development practices and beliefs?

1. Low tolerance for failure

This is embedded in laws that strongly influence society as a whole, and it specifically impacts family and academic dynamics by heightening fear of failure whilst exerting enormous pressure on attaining excellence. Anthony writes, “A fear of failure can choke off innovation.”

2. Hierarchical decision making

Instead of favoring the best idea, whoever it may come from, individuals with tenure or seniority generally call the shots. “Innovation can't be a largest-title-wins game; it has to be a legitimately best-idea wins,” states Anthony.

3. Emphasis on title and rank

Many Asian business people are extremely proud of their position – to a fault according to Anthony. The higher the title in Asia, the less humility a person may have and the less focused they may be on innovation.

How to change behaviors and deeply rooted mentalities? With more Westerners visiting and residing in Asia and vice versa with Asians educating themselves in the West, not only do mutual perceptions shift, but individual cultural values do as well. A balanced focus on the family unit, government legacy success and innovators who have built their own companies from the ground up could prove to be a great role model as societies see that there is not one single path to success.

A shift in education and child rearing with less weight on rote learning and incorporating creativity could also encourage innovation. Singapore’s Prime Minister urged his citizens to “please let your children have their childhood." The idea is that this would eventually lead to a society of adults charged with curiosity, creativity, and a willingness to fail.

What do you think about this perspective on Asia’s future success? What can be said about the positive aspects of Asian cultural values and their role in the region’s near future?


RW3 CultureWizard is a leading provider of cross cultural training and information, primarily through the CultureWizard and intercultural learning platforms.