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On Thinking Institutionally

We, the people, have lost faith in institutions. There are daily reports in the media that priests have sexually abused children, governments have cheated the people, businesses have fooled their consumers, schools have discriminated against students, and husbands have killed wives. We, as a society, feel cheated by institutions. Hence, we have turned to libertarianism as our collective view of life, that is, we would like to do as we please so long as we do not steal the rights of others to do as we want. Heclo challenges this way of thinking by providing us with reasons to think institutionally instead.

After all, we are dependent on institutions, for which reason it is essential for us to adopt the participatory mode by taking up necessary roles in institutions we have been distrusting. Who would fix these institutions if we all back off? Heclo is not concerned with corrupt institutions such as the Nazi Party that killed millions of Jews and other races for political reasons. Likewise, the author does not refer to fanatic rage – in the name of nationalism – that killed approximately ten million people between June 28, 1914 and November 11, 1918, when the armistice was eventually signed after World War I.

There were millions fighting for their respective nations through that war. All had been brainwashed by their respective governments in a show of power. At this point, we can easily question such bureaucratic institutions that brainwash people and corrupt human judgment. However, we are still not in the position to change the courses taken by our governments. The protests against the Iraq War did not help. So, why does Heclo promote institutional thinking for us to start respecting and trusting institutions again? In fact, Heclo does not see individualism as an option at all.

Rather, the author insists on institutional thinking because we cannot survive without institutions. Thus, the blue collar worker, exploited by the corporation that has hired him, should not feel alienated any longer. He should take responsibility for the fact that he has been compelled by forces of life to join the institution in order to meet his needs. By thinking institutionally, the worker may even convince his corporation to stop exploiting him. Once he has started acting institutionally, the corporation would observe that he is willing to go the extra mile for the institution.

The worker may be promoted for the reason that he has started taking on greater responsibilities than before for his institution. Heclo calls for a paradigm shift in his promotion of institutional thinking. He points out, for example, that it was institutional thinking that allowed the United States government to expose mistakes made by the FBI before 9/11. Those mistakes may have been easily remained covered up. However, the government included institutional thinkers who took responsibility for fixing errors so they can be avoided in future.

On a similar note, the Democrats and the Republicans cannot help disagreeing as they represent conflicting views of Americans on the political platform. Just the same, both political parties remain united in their ideology to support America in progress and protect it from danger. In other words, both political parties have the best interests of Americans at heart. Violence between them is unheard of. Thus, their conflicting views spurring important debates should be considered a necessary part of American intellectual evolution in addition to the institution of government.

So, even if there are government servants that fail us, regardless of the nature of their personal failings, Heclo encourages us to think institutionally with faith in the fact that all people of the world are not equally good or bad. Heclo uses the example of Enron in his book to illustrate institutional failure. Nevertheless, the author encourages us to think positively about institutions. All organizations are not Enron, which is why failed organizations do not lead to worldwide organizational closures.

Regardless of Enron, businesses are required to continue spelling out their missions in simple terms for employees to take full responsibility for their positions. As a matter of fact, Heclo encourages all his readers to start relating to their respective institutions in ways that would urge them to go the extra mile for the same. In this way, society may collectively achieve excellence. Institutional Thinking: A Personal Example I agree with Heclo that institutional thinking is important as it serves society in the best possible ways.

Everybody cannot be distrusted because a few have cheated us. Institutions must go on. Then again, I do not trust radical thinking as it relates to institutional membership, as in the case of the Nazis, loyal to their corrupt institution. I, therefore, believe in a healthy balance between individualistic and institutional thinking and ways of being. Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss the concept of multicultural marketing with an uncle who owns a family business going online mainly for customers in Asia.

Although his business plan appeared sound, there was one problem we had to put our heads together for: he wanted the Christian sign of the cross on all of his web pages and products to be sold to customers in Asia. According to him, God would be pleased with this. He agreed with me on the fact that all organizations desirous of selling their products or services in the global marketplace must be acquainted with the cultures of the nations that they interact with for the purpose of business.

Culture determines people’s tastes in products and services that they would eventually pay for. Companies that intend to sell their goods and services abroad have to learn the strategies of multicultural marketing. This form of marketing entails communication with diverse cultures or market segments. Even though my uncle understood that he must respect the Asian cultures that his business intends to reach out to, it was not easy for me to explain to him why using the cross on his website and products for Asian customers would be unwise.

I did not disrespect my uncle’s religious sentiments, and neither did I wish for his business to disrespect the religious sentiments of Asian customers. Hence, I conducted a literature search to better explain myself to him. My uncle does not enjoy reading. So, I found him a brief article to shed light on the subject at hand. Indeed, the literature search removed our doubts about whether it would be wise to market products with a cross. We learned that international businesses selling to cultures beyond their own must adapt to those cultures if they must successfully market and sell their products in other countries.

Businesses, unlike nations and invaders, do not have to debate the question of whether to respect or disrespect other cultures or the sociopolitical environments of other countries. Rather, business means business – international businesses are out to sell their goods and/or services instead of trying to change the politics, cultures or religions of the nations they have opted to sell to. My uncle agreed with this viewpoint. As we were finishing our discussion, he stated that even God does not want him to be pushy in preaching religion.

Had he disagreed, his business may have entirely failed to attract Asian customers. Thus, institutional thinking, which in this case showed my uncle’s loyalty to his faith, should be managed. It should be avoided when it is necessary to do so, for example, if the Nazi Party is calling us to its false god, Adolf Hitler. Even so, institutional thinking is vital to the survival of our world. As an example of its significance – without institutional thinking, we cannot answer the challenge of climate change.

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