Rule Makers, Rule Breakers Book Summary - Rule Makers, Rule Breakers Book explained in key points

Rule Makers, Rule Breakers summary

Michele Gelfand

How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World

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What is Rule Makers, Rule Breakers about?

Rule Makers, Rule Breakers (2018) explores the idea that cultural diversity in our thoughts and behavior derives from how loosely or tightly we stick to social norms. Diving into topics such as why Germans set their clocks so accurately or why the DaimlerChrysler merger was doomed to fail, it pulls from decades of research to shed light on the roots of cultural diversity and their implications for the modern world.

About the Author

Michele Gelfand, PhD, is the John H. Schully professor of cross-cultural management and organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and professor of psychology at Stanford University. Her work on cultural differences has been featured in the Washington Post, the New York Times, NYC News, the Economist, and on NPR, among others. She is a past president of the International Association for Conflict Management and has published in premier scientific outlets including Science, Annual Review of Psychology, and Journal of Applied Psychology. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Table of Contents
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    There are two types of culture: loose and tight.

    Whether you’re aware of it or not, all of us are constantly following social norms. These norms function as the glue that binds groups of people together. They’re why people cover their mouth to sneeze, or why millions of people stand outside in New York City in the freezing cold on New Year’s Eve to watch the ball drop.

    But understanding countries' social norms can also help us understand more complicated patterns in behavior. Such as why women in New Zealand have the world’s highest number of sexual partners. Or why trains in Japan run with astounding accuracy, while the busiest lines in New York frequently have delays.

    It turns out that a culture’s social norms have a much bigger impact on behavior than you might think. Either you live in a tight culture, where social norms are strict and there’s low tolerance toward people who break the rules, or you live in a loose culture, where the opposite is true.

    Think of countries like Singapore, where discipline and order are the norm, and violations are rare. In Singapore, you’ll find the sidewalks are pristine and jaywalking is frowned upon. Cultures like this are what we might call rule makers. They are tight cultures that tend to have lower crime rates and more coordination, including clocks on city streets. 

    By contrast, loose cultures are characterized by weak social norms and frequent transgressions. The people who make up these loose cultures are often more tolerant and have their own idiosyncratic preferences – from their attitudes to their clothing preferences. Even clocks don’t always

    agree on the time in city streets in loose cultures.

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    Who should read Rule Makers, Rule Breakers

    • Cultural enthusiasts and world travelers
    • Business leaders
    • Anyone perplexed by the division in the United States

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