Friday, September 27, 2013

Long Term Orientation Versus Short Term Orientation

Hofstede's ideas about long term orientation versus short term orientation is opposite of our intuitive sense.

Long Term Orientation (LTO) refers to an orientation of benefit for an individual over a single life span.  What is long term is in terms of decades.  Often, people with an LTO look at problems and issues in terms of context, seeking to adapt life to best meet their circumstances.

Short Term Orientation (STO) refers to an orientation focuses on the problems of now, but many of these "problems" are not really "now" problems but ones of culture:  saving face, keeping tradition, keeping promises. People with an STO often look at the way culture informs their life, rather than vice versa.  People with an STO are more likely to seek absolute truth.

Hofstede sees LTO as adaptive and STO as normative.  He sees LTO as prudent and STO as avoident. 

I have a very hard time reading Hofstede and not feeling his approval of one orientation over the other, or even of his not really trying to understand the possible benefits of each orientation.

And so I am going to go with some pros and cons to both and show you how they might show up in a story.

  • Biggest pros:  People with an LTO are self-preserving.  Their actions help guarantee their long-term flourishing in this life.  People with an LTO have a plan, and they are practical in fitting everything else to meet their needs.
  • Biggest cons:  People with an LTO are often not looking at the benefits accorded by the culture itself.  Morale and other intangible aspects of community are sometimes lost to a sense of pragmatics which might actually benefit from an understanding of feelings.
  • LTO in a story:  Stories of "tightening one's belt," "skipping a holiday," or "making tough choices" often fall under the guise of a long term orientation.  Similarly, stories about long term planning and reaping the benefits would also fall under this category.
  • Biggest pros:  People with an STO often fit integrally into their community.  Their acts of face-saving and tradition upholding often win them favors that pay off with neighbors as well as a linkage that results in greater community safety and harmony.
  • Biggest cons:  People with an STO often look to others to bail them out.  They may not continue working when the going gets tough.  Similarly, they may carry an ideal too far, going overboard on budget and effort for something that ultimately ends up hurting them or their family.
  • STO in a story:  The big celebrations, weddings, Christmases, or vacations often fall under the category of STO.  Similarly, attempts at harmony over practicality would likewise exemplify this point of view.
Most often, in my experience, families, and even individuals, tend to show a little of both points of view, and examples of these throughout time or in certain years might make productive stories.

I can't wait to hear what you have to say!

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