Insight article

The 3Ms: shifting the culture of an entire country

When it comes to shifting culture, here at The Storytellers we know that continuously providing the ‘3Ms’ – motivation, means and momentum – is absolutely critical towards making real change happen. So it is with interest that we hear news this week of South Korea making their own efforts to shift culture, on a country-wide scale – could the same principles apply?

South Korea is known for having one of the most workaholic cultures in the world. Essentially, there is very little balance about it – people there typically work up to 68 hours a week, working around 400 hours extra a year compared to people in the UK. This working culture extends to students too, and South Korea is also notorious for the highest suicide rate in the developed world.

So we can see that there is a great motivation to change – not only will a shorter working week benefit everyone in terms of getting personal time back, but it also stands to establish a healthier culture for generations to come. You might wonder if the people themselves were genuinely motivated by this. Well, the promise was a key part of President Moon Jae-In’s campaign – so while it is by no means the only reason for his electoral success, it surely shows that he struck a chord with this motivating idea.

But what about means? President Moon Jae-In had this covered too – alongside promising a reduction in working hours, the President also promised a massive raise in the minimum wage, a 16% increase – the highest since 2000. This meant that the plan to reduce working hours would not affect the means of South Korean families to continue living to the standards they are accustomed to. Without ensuring that people were materially supported through this massive cultural change, President Moon Jae-In’s promise of a reduction in working hours would simply have been hot air – you have to give people the means to make the change.

Finally, how about momentum? Momentum is perhaps the most intangible of these three critical factors – but again, there is real evidence that South Korea as a country has grasped the cultural change, and run with it. Some businesses have started to turn off computers on a Friday, in order to force people to go home. Other business turn off the lights in an office past a certain time of night, again, to support the wider change. While these might sound like small, insignificant events, they are in fact a sign that people are starting to make the country-wide change their own. These are the green shoots of change that need to be shared and celebrated if momentum and a real sense of a movement is to be created behind a change.

So while applying the 3Ms to a country’s sweeping cultural changes may seem far-fetched… in reality, when it comes to shifting culture, there are some principles that really do apply across the board.

Daniel Castro
Senior Producer

Daniel Castro