CultureWhen we talk about culture, we are typically referring to the pattern of development reflected in a society’s system of knowledge, ideology, values, laws and day-to-day ritual.  The influence of a host culture is rarely uniform.  Just as individuals have different personalities while sharing much in common, so too do groups and organisations.

Culture can be described as:

  • an amalgam of beliefs, ideologies, languages, rituals and myth (Pettigram 1979)
  • it is the way we do things around here (deal & Kennedy 1982).
  • Culture is conveyed through the expression of sentiments, beliefs & attitudes (Pfeffer 1981).
  • The collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another (Hofstede 1990).
  • Shared values and beliefs (Hofstede 1990).
  • Ideologies, beliefs & deep set values which occur in all firms & are prescriptions for the ways in which people should work (Roger Harrison 1972).
  • Customary & traditional way of thinking & doing things, which is shared to a greater or lessor degree by all members & which the new members must learn & at least partially accept in order to be accepted in the services of the firm (Jacques 1952).
  • The basic values, ideologies & assumptions which guide and fashion industry and behaviour.  These values are evident in more tangible factors such as stories, ritual, language & jargon.

“Economic success comes through the talent, energy & commitment of a team, i.e. collective Entrepreneurship”            (Robert B Reich - HBR).

The American/International Perspective


What we need is a society where innovation & Entrepreneurship are normal, steady and continuous.  Planning is incompatible with an entrepreneurial society.

An entrepreneurial society requires social innovation to organise the systematic abandonment of outworn social policies & obsolete public service institutions.  A hundred years ago, there were very few of them, now there are plenty.  One of the major changes is the realisation that Governmental policies & agencies are of human rather than divine origin and that they will become obsolete fairly fast.  Politics is based on the assumption that whatever Governments do is grounded in the nature of human society and is therefore ‘forever’. 

We need to encourage habits of flexibility, continuous learning & of acceptance of change as normal & as an opportunity.  In an entrepreneurial society, individuals need to exploit the opportunity of learning and re-learning. 

The traditional approach to learning is that you learn up to the age of 21 or so and that what you learned up to that age would be applied to the rest of your life.  It is on this assumption that the apprenticeship, crafts professions and general system of education is based.  Exceptions were those groups who practised learning and re-learning.

In an entrepreneurial society, this idea is obsolete.  The correct assumption is that an individual will have to learn new things well into their adult years, many more than once.  The reality is that the what the entrepreneur learns by age 21 is obsolete by age 30 and will have to be replenished by learning new skills and new knowledge.  In fact, it has been suggested that a person will change careers at least twice in their working life.

Therefore, individuals will have to take responsibility for their own learning and re-learning, self development and their careers.  What they learned as children is no longer the foundation for the rest of their lives.  It is the ‘launching pad’ from which to build on.  They can no longer assume they enter a career path for the rest of their lives.  They will have to find, determine and develop a number of careers during their lives.

The more highly schooled the individual, the more entrepreneurial their careers and the more demanding their learning challenges.  A carpenter can assume that the skills he learned as an apprentice will be used forty years later.  However, a doctor, engineer, accountant, lawyer, manager etc., had better realise that the skill they will use 15 years later will be different and new.  In fact 15 years later they will be doing different & new things & in many cases new careers.  They have to take responsibility for their own re-learning.

An entrepreneurial society challenges the habits & assumptions of schooling.  Schooling is no longer for the young only.  It is also for the re-learning of already highly schooled adults.

The world-wide panic of 1873 ended the century of Laissez-Faire  that had begun with the publication of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations in 1776.  Therefore, the modern welfare state was born.  Now, a hundred years later, it has run it’s course.  It may survive despite a shrinking birth-rate and an ageing population.  But only if the entrepreneurial economy succeeds in greatly raising productivity’s.  The welfare state is past rather than future.

Will its successor be the Entrepreneurial Society?

Enterprise Culture in Ireland.

Development of an entrepreneurial culture in Ireland is seen, of necessity, as being the way to counteract the growth of unemployment.

1/500 people in Ireland start up businesses.

1/200 people in US/EU start up businesses.[1]

1983 unemployed was 70k.

1993 unemployed was (live register) was 294k                                  15.75%

1994       “                “    “       “            “  284k.  Down 10k.              15.25%

1993 total labour force was 1379k

1994 total labour force was 1394k.  Up 5k.[2]

The figures are heartening and show an improvement. 

From a national perspective, it is important to promote an entrepreneurial culture and to identify and support entrepreneurs since they are most likely to provide wealth & to create jobs.

In the European Union in 1990 91.34%of all enterprises comprise less than 10 people.  They employ 26.89%. 

in Ireland we tend to stigmatise failure & regard people who fail in business and start again as chancers.  In the US a person who fails and starts again is regarded in high esteem.  It has been suggested that a person who fails and starts again has a much higher chance of success second time round than the first timer.

An enterprise culture in Ireland needs to be developed and sustained along the following concepts:

  1. Development of our own natural resources, education, skills and talents.
  2. Producing high quality goods and services, which are in demand, at competitive prices.

Enterprise Culture throughout society in general

According to Reich (see Intro.) Japan achieved competitive advantage while at the same time maintaining & improving living standards by:

  1. Borrowing ideas and technology from other countries & cultures and modifying them to supply market needs better.
  2. They used productive low paid workers in south east Asia.
  3. Embracing collective Entrepreneurship.

Example: Western Electric held the patent for transistor radios and then sold it to Sony.

Innovations must become continuous and collective.  It must follow the evolutionary path of both products and ideas e.g. vacuum tube radios evolved into transistor radios, into pocket radios, into Walkmans, into CD players, etc.  A further development of innovation can be developed through lateral thinking (De Bono).

Nowadays, there is no clear plc.  Companies relaunch products in their maturing years e.g. Lucazade.  A continuous process of incremental change and adaptation i.e. one idea leads to another.  E.g. electronic circuits in cars have been developed for medical purposes,  lasers have been used for many purposes including wars, medical, light shows, games, etc.


The entrepreneurial culture needs to be developed along the lines of learning & re-learning.  We are in a state of continuous change and an entrepreneurial culture needs to be developed not only in the younger educational system but also through other sources (political, inducements, development of resources & talents, etc.).  Skills need to be developed by personnel within companies on the lines product development and an entrepreneurial attitude which can help their companies to become more profitable and therefore secure not only their employment but also create more.


[2]CBI  Autumn Quarterly Review.

First published 16th October 2003


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