The Culture of the Future: Collectivism vs. Individualism

No two organizations are alike; however, many implement either collectivism or individualism in their company culture. Some promote independence and let employees think for themselves. Others emphasize interdependence, group think and interpersonal relationships. 

In the US, where individualism is highly-valued, employees can make decisions, be self-reliant and be held accountable for their actions.

But in Japan, where collectivism is the primary ideology adopted by businesses, organizations place more emphasis on cooperation and teamwork

Collectivism views people as a group, unlike in individualism, where each person is considered a distinct individual. 

Business owners and managers must decide what #companyculture to implement for long-term growth and success that aligns with their organization’s goals.

For example, lean production or lean manufacturing derived from Toyota’s “The Toyota Way” operating model reveals that collectivism is more effective than individualism.

According to James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones, lean is a way to do more and more with less and less (human effort, space, and time). (Lean Thinking, 2003)


Individualism stresses one’s goals and personal ideas. This concept emphasizes that each person should live the life they want to, act on their judgment and pursue their values in a way they prefer.

The American Founders used individualism in drafting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which recognize and protect an individual’s rights.

Individualist motivators include personal benefits and rewards. 

In an organization, an individualist finds it comfortable to work alone with autonomy. Individualism clusters can be found in Germanic Europe, Anglo countries and Nordic Europe.


On the other hand, collectivism stresses group goals and group think; thus, collectivism values what is best for personal relationships and the entire group over the individuals that are part of it.

Collectivist motivators are group goals and a shared mindset/values. 

The collectivists are willing to sacrifice personal benefit for the team’s success.

Collectivism clusters can be found in Latin America; Arab countries; Southern and Confucian Asia; and Sub-Saharan Africa.

This idea is the exact opposite of individualism. Collectivists often sacrifice their personal goals and values for the greater good of the group because they believe in the mission the organization strives towards.

According to the literature study “Understanding the Individualism-Collectivism Cleavage and its Effects: Lessons from Cultural Psychology” from Yuriy Gorodnichenko and Gerard Roland, motivational differences in decision-making are also evident in independent and interdependent individuals.

For example, the independent self focuses on making one’s choice without factoring anyone else into it. This is the opposite of the interdependent individual (a collectivist) who is willing to adjust their behavior/choice to better the group to which they belong.

When applied in business….

Individualist organizations value and recognize people for their individual skills and abilities. Employees with this company culture want to be treated and respected for their unique personalities.

This idea promotes innovation and creativity, pushes people to do their best, and boosts employee engagement. 

Knowing that their efforts will be appreciated, employees, who are proud of individual accomplishments and encouraged to celebrate them, also work hard to deliver and excel individually. This, in turn, makes the company thrive holistically. In this type of company culture, people are individualists who have strong opinions and are highly-independent.

An organization that adopts a collectivist culture emphasizes cooperation and the greater good as a team rather than focusing on individual efforts and achievements. People are a part of a cohesive team or group.

A collectivist culture looks like this.

A collectivist project manager closed a deal. Instead of only celebrating the manager, the entire company is celebrated because everyone’s work contributed to that success. 

In this case, collectivism may help bring more consistency and stability to an entire team because people feel equal responsibility and make collective decisions.

Individualism or Collectivism?

Each approach has its pros and cons

Individualism boosts self-confidence, promotes individual excellence and enhances creativity, but it may also lead to resistance to #change, lack of cooperation and increased conflicts.

A team’s performance may also be impacted by people who are unwilling to comply with or follow predefined standards and methodologies.

While these issues may not be the primary issues within a collectivist organization, they can still arise. As individual efforts are overlooked (for the most part), employees may also feel less engaged or motivated to excel. This approach may also hinder innovation and creativity due to the desire to serve the group.

To get the best of both worlds, you can balance individualism and collectivism in your organization. For instance, adopt the value of teamwork from collectivism while also encouraging individual creativity in each group member. In essence, consider a caring culture to gain a better insight into your employees’ values and priorities (individual creativity and innovation or the group’s wellbeing and success…) and how they like to work (individually or in team settings).

In love and respect,

Hilary Corna



Hilary Corna

Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Podcast Host, Founder of the Human Way ™...

Hilary’s favorite title is HUMAN.


I am starting a revolution. One business and one person at a time.



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