Does culture still matter?: The effects of individualism on national
Mark Zachary Taylor
, Sean Wilson
Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology, 781 Marietta St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30332-0610, FedEx/UPS Zip 30318, United States
Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University, 1957 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052, United States
article info abstract
Received 19 June 2009
Received in revised form 8 August 2010
Accepted 6 October 2010
Available online 5 November 2010
Field Editor: P. Phan
Does a society's culture affect its rate of inventive activity? This article analyzes several
independent datasets of culture and innovation from 62 countries spanning more than two
decades. It finds that most measures of individualism have a strong, significant, and positive
effect on innovation, even when controlling for major policy variables. However, the data also
suggest that a certain type of collectivism (i.e. patriotism and nationalism) can also foster
innovation at the national level. Meanwhile, other types of collectivism (i.e. familism and
localism) not only harm innovation rates, but may hurt progress in science worse than
© 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
1. Executive summary
Is there a linkage between a society's cultural values and its ability to innovate? Since entrepreneurs often use technological innovation
as their basis upon which to build new businesses and industries, the question of whether national culture promotes innovation should be
of critical importance. However, there is a paucity of culture–innovation research that focuses on the national level. This gap needs to be
ﬁlled. After all, an entrepreneurial ﬁrm's organizational culture may not match, or might be overwhelmed by, the culture of the society
within which it innovates or whose workers it employs. Furthermore, evidence that a nation's culture affects innovation may carry
important implications for business strategists concerned with locating R&D facilities internationally. Also, if national culture matters,
then simply budgeting more money for R&D, industrial infrastructure, and the promotion of entrepreneurship may not be sufﬁcient to
increase the national innovation rate of a country whose underlying cultural values are antithetical to innovative activity.
Some scholars suggest that cultures which emphasize individualism should foster high rates of technological innovation.
However, few cross-national studies of individualism and innovation exist to conﬁrm this suspicion. Those that do exist have
relied on limited quantitative data or non-generalizeable case studies. In fact, cross-national statistical analysis of culture and
innovation has not progressed much beyond Shane's (1992, 1993) seminal articles in this journal. Meanwhile, several countries
without individualist cultures (e.g. Taiwan, South Korea, Finland, India) have built up globally competitive high-technology
industries. Fortunately, in the past two decades, signiﬁcant improvements have been made in the amount and richness of
quantitative data on culture and innovation. Given this recent progress in empirical measures, this article asks whether Shane's
initial observations regarding individualism can be conﬁrmed. Furthermore, do the improved data allow us to generate new
ﬁndings about the culture–innovation relationship?
Journal of Business Venturing 27 (2012) 234–247
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Tel.: +1 678 982 4459; fax: +1 202 994 0335.
0883-9026/$ – see front matter © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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