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Alain Giguère

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Canada and its distinct societies (and La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 06-26-17 at 2:27 p.m.

Quebecers and English Canadians still have very different priorities in life!

I thought it appropriate during this week between our two national holidays-Quebec's Fête nationale and Canada Day-to search our databases for indicators of the differences between Quebecers and Canadians from the other provinces.

It is fashionable to call Quebec a distinct society. But English Canada is one too, with its cultural heritage inspired by a secular version of the Protestant ethic.

Joie de vivre?

To describe Quebec's way of life as joie de vivre may seem "tired" and stereotypical. Nevertheless, this joie de vivre can be easily measured with numerous indicators. The results speak volumes especially when we compare the importance that Quebecers and English Canadians give to the following notion: "When entertaining at home, to impress one's guests with the way they are received and the food they are served."

Two out of five Quebecers (42%) consider it very important to impress their guests with the quality of their reception and cuisine, compared to 27% of English Canadians-a difference of 15 points.

A mix of conviviality, pleasure, pride and even challenge!

In fact, the true "Quebecness" of our results is revealed when we cross tabulate the results of this question with people's values and hot buttons. Quebecers who consider it very important to impress their guests when entertaining at home are motivated by a keen desire to feel proud, to prepare memorable meals (that now get posted to Instagram!). This can give rise to a healthy spirit of competition for the most interesting, best-prepared dishes, which raises the stakes for each subsequent invitation!


They also give great importance to maintaining emotionally meaningful and truly authentic relationships with others. This is conviviality at its most sincere and appealing form. Also on the table are pleasure and passion, along with an elegant and sensual presentation-of the food and by the guests!

In short, an expression of Latin culture in every way!

Dependence on institutions in Quebec versus personal responsibility in English Canada

Moving on to another issue entirely, agreement with the following statement is also very telling when it comes to the differences between Quebec and English Canada: "Society would be better off with more government involvement."

In Quebec, 55% of the population agree with this statement, compared to 31% in the other provinces-a difference of 24 points!

In English Canada: civic, social and community involvement

The marked disagreement with this statement outside Quebec (more than two out of three individuals, 69%) expresses a totally opposite vision of the role of institutions to that prevailing in Quebec.


English Canadians believe that the State should play a minimal role in society; that individuals themselves, as citizens, should assume their civic and community responsibilities. Mutual aid, social responsibility, ethical consumerism, community involvement-all values expressed much more strongly in English Canada than in Quebec, just like the belief in government non-interference in society and people's lives.

A fundamental sense of duty, based on the traditional Protestant ethic, underlies all these values, creating a kind of "cultural glue" for this civic engagement. English Canadians, like Quebecers, may have abandoned their churches, but this collectivist ethic, this sense of civic engagement, has become embedded in their cultural mores (along with a systematic distaste for bureaucracy among the more conservative elements of the population).

As was the case for joie de vivre in Quebec, this notion of a collectivist ethic in English Canada may also seem a bit "tired," a bit "old hat." Nevertheless, this kind of civic engagement continues to be a hallmark of the culture of English Canada, even today.

We are not saying that this collectivist ethic does not exist in Quebec, but it is certainly less apparent than in English Canada (quantitatively, in terms of "adherents"). The reflex, in Quebec, of demanding that our governments take charge our social responsibilities is still highly developed (much more so than in English Canada).

Canada is still the Canada we know!

Thus, even in our modern times, with globalized markets, culture, communications and media, the main cultural traits of our two founding nations remain. Our society, with its French Catholic roots (hence the predominance of institutions), still expresses these deeply Latin traits (the French in France also seem to expect a great deal from their institutions), whereas the other provinces, whose cultural roots hail from Anglo-Protestant communities, still display this sensibility, this social/community engagement.

On the other hand, the differences between Quebec and English Canada are less pronounced than they were, say, 20 years ago. Old-school Protestant asceticism is a thing of the past in English Canada, where we now find more joie de vivre in people's customs and values. (Toronto is no longer the boring town that Quebecers used to disparage. Our famous Montreal chef, David McMillan, recently declared that Toronto has the best restaurants in the country!).

At the same time, a collectivist community engagement is making few inroads in Quebec. We are not saying that it does not exist in "la belle province", but it remains significantly underdeveloped compared to English Canada.

Thus, our country remains the country we know, with all its diversity and cultural differences.


La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini

The aria, "Quando men' vo soletta" (When I wander alone in the streets, people stop to look at me), sung by Musetta in Puccini's La Bohème seems the perfect lyrical nod to my text. In this alluring scene, a beautiful, rich courtesan affirms her powers of seduction. In this portrayal of risqué 19th century Paris, we find all the archetypes of French joie de vivre: sensuality, passion, jealousy, showing off, enjoyment of fine food and drink-it's all there!

Giacomo Puccini: La Bohème, Mirella Freni, Gianni Raimondi, Rolando Panerai, Adriana Martino, Ivo Vinco, Franco Zeffirelli, Wilhelm Semmelroth, Herbert von Karajan, Orchestra E Coro del Teatro alla Scala, Milano, Deutsche Grammophon, June 2006.

The pater familias: 29% of Canadians believe that the father should be in charge in his own home! (And La Cenerentola by Gioachino Rossini)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 06-12-17 at 4:36 p.m.

Culture shock between the disciples of the modern and the traditional family!

On the eve of Father's Day, I’d like to discuss a phenomenon that we have been measuring for a long time with a simple statement -a clear indicator of how society and the family as a "social organization" has evolved. Compared to what prevailed even 50 years ago, the family unit has changed considerably. "Families" today are pluralistic, adaptive and can take multiple forms.

 

The traditional pyramidal family model, where the father is the primary authority figure with a supporting wife and children subject to parental authority, gradually began to disintegrate from the 1960s to the end of the 1990s, when its popularity hit bottom.

We have been able to measure this trend by monitoring the evolution in the agreement with this statement (one of our favourites for its sociocultural relevance): "The father of the family must be master in his own house."

In 1983, the first year CROP measured this statement, 42% of Canadians agreed with this proposition. Agreement fell to its lowest point, 17%, in 1998. Thereafter, it more or less plateaued until 2013, when the popularity of the traditional pyramidal family model experienced a resurgence.

From 2013 to 2017, the percentage of Canadians of the opinion that the father should be in charge in his home rose from 19% to 29%, a 10-point rise over four years!

The immigrant and the "angry man"!

A combination of many demographic factors have shaped the recent support for this traditional view of the family. Of course, being an immigrant is one of them. Many newcomers hail from societies with much more patriarchal traditions than ours. But immigration does not fully account for this phenomenon.


The archetypal believer in this traditional-style family is male, low income, 25 to 54 years of age, married or widowed. He is suffering from the sociocultural stresses inflicted by our modern world and truly believes that there is no opportunity for him improve his lot.

Traditional values and the fantasy of clearly defined social codes!

The values and mentalities of the believers in a traditional-style family reveal a host of different motivations. These "traditionalists" do not represent a homogeneous conservative block, despite espousing a set of very traditional values: roles for men and woman defined in very stereotypical and conservative ways. They value order, morality, discipline, a sense of duty above all, religion, the authority of institutions, etc.

In addition, they are having great difficulty navigating and adjusting to a society that is changing too quickly for them. Ethnic diversity, the range of living styles, gay marriage, technological change, restructured businesses-in fact, everything that is redefining today's society and economy is completely beyond them. They feel like they are living without guideposts or reference points. They are becoming cynical, bitter, frustrated and anxious, in a world where they no longer fit.

They also feel that their social identity is being called into question, diminished-that they no longer have a place, that they are becoming second-class citizens, with downward status mobility.

Hence, their fantasy of returning to rigid social codes, where men are men and women know their place. They want to recreate a simpler, more predictable world, where they can take pride in their identity (she is his wife, he is the husband, it is his suburban home, etc.).

Other indicators tell us that, since 2012-2013, Canadians clearly feel that the pace of change is accelerating. At the end of the recession, they had hoped life would return to "normal," to the way it was before. But that didn't happen. Instead, the transformations keep speeding up. Life is becoming more complex (such is life, after all). For some, these changes are difficult to handle and they are losing their bearings.

A challenge for society

On a socio-political level, such trends lead directly to the type of extremist right-wing movements that have arisen around the world in recent years and have even formed governments in several countries. Society and institutions will need to find ways to become more inclusive, to redistribute wealth more effectively, to fight exclusion and cynicism.

The trends that are the catalysts of change are not going to melt away. Instead, these trends are set to advance exponentially. More issues provoking feelings of exclusion and cynicism are likely to arise in the years ahead. The fantasy of rewinding to traditional and stereotypical social mores is a symptom of a society that is changing too quickly for some.


La Cenerentola by Gioachino Rossini

As a lyrical nod to the role of traditional pater familias, who better than the pater in Rossini's opera, Cinderella. This clip shows a father determined to marry off a daughter to the Prince (it's the father who commands) so he can improve his social standing and solve his financial woes.

Gioachino Rossini: La Cenerentola, Elina Garanca, Lawrence Brownlee, John Relyea, Alessandro Corbelli, Rachelle Durkin, Patricia Risley, Simone Alberghini, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Maurizio Benini, Conducting. April 26, 2013.

Innovation—34% of Canadians love it; 22% demonize it! (And the mechanical doll from Jacques Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 05-29-17 at 4:50 p.m.

Innovation: a deep social schism in reaction to the pace of change

This post is a natural progression from last week's, on creativity. Whereas the latter alluded to C2 Montréal, a major celebration of commercial creativity, this post examines our attitude to innovation (artificial intelligence being a notable feature of C2).

Innovation fuels the economy. Its pace-and its spread-continues to accelerate. Many consumers see innovation as a fantastic playground, especially the "Innovators" and "Early Adopters," who are keen to be the first to take advantage of the latest innovations on the market. Here, I am using terminology popularized in the 1960s by Everett Rogers' diffusion of innovation model: from the Innovators to the Early Majority, to the most recalcitrant, the Laggards. Several survey questions must be used to reproduce his initial model, but when we need a quick estimate with an acceptable degree of accuracy, agreement with the following statement has proven quite effective: "Typically, I am the first person I know to try a new product or service." Despite the seeming ingenuousness of this question, our analyses indicate that it sufficiently predicts attitudes to innovation in many areas of life.

Innovation: 34% Enthusiasts, 44% Cautious, 22% Detractors!

The people in agreement with this statement, whether totally or somewhat, are a very homogeneous group. We find them among younger individuals, men, people in higher-income brackets, professionals, residents of large cities and especially in Ontario. By contrast, the most recalcitrant display the opposite profile: older, women, low income, etc.

In fact, our findings can be grouped into three categories, indicating a deep social schism in reaction to the pace of change in our lives today.


The first category comprises people in agreement with the statement, the "Enthusiasts" (34%), who unquestionably play a leadership role in the diffusion of innovation. (In the Rogers model, they correspond to the total of Innovators, Early Adopters and Early Majority.) Next come the "Cautious" (44%), who "somewhat disagree" and who display more wary attitudes. Before they get onboard, they are waiting for innovations to prove themselves.

The final 22% are "Detractors," individuals who find the frenetic pace of change threatening.

Note that the percentages are relatively consistent throughout the Canadian provinces.

Leverage for personal transformation or a threat of social exclusion?

An impressive cocktail of values and hot buttons influences the adoption or rejection of innovation.

Among Enthusiasts, we find a desire to transform one's life, make discoveries, express one's personal potential and creativity, a desire to change the world, but also a desire for status experiences, fun, to connect with others, etc. Depending on the areas affected by innovation, these underlying motivations will be activated to a greater or lesser degree.

Fundamentally, the idea of doing everything differently- listening to music differently, communicating differently, exercising differently-in order to stimulate one's creativity, express one's potential, play and have fun, undoubtedly constitutes the primary motivation underlying the enthusiasm for innovations and their adoption.

Conversely, the Cautious (who somewhat disagree with the statement) feel the world is moving too fast, that they can't adapt to or keep up with all the new demands. They want things to slow down. They remain wary of what they perceive as a flood of change, without necessarily denying its merits.

Finally, the Detractors (22%) see only evil! For them, innovation is a symbol, no matter what its utility. They see it as a cause of social exclusion: every innovation makes the world more complex, creating unemployment and leaving people behind. For them, innovation and technological change are the harbingers of immanent social apocalypse (many of them have lost their jobs to automation).


Opportunity, but also challenges

Change the world! That is what innovation promises to do. Changing the world for people on a personal level means giving them more control by transforming their daily lives, by making even the smallest quotidian tasks fun, more efficient, etc. Changing the world on a societal level means helping people connect to each other better, helping to mitigate our ecological problems, finding unexpected solutions to important issues, etc.

However, innovation too often leads to job loss and exclusion. Our society and institutions must find ways to counteract this collateral damage. Otherwise, the next wave of automation and artificial intelligence is bound to do a great deal of harm!

Tales of Hoffman by Jacques Offenbach

Innovation and progress have long been a source of fascination. Here is a gem, the ultimate chauvinist innovation fantasy-a female robot!-from the Tales of Hoffman (Les Contes d'Hoffmann), the 1881 opera by Jacques Offenbach. Inventing a female robot, a mechanical doll, to fulfil every male desire with docility, was a 19th century fantasy-as if women in this period weren't subjugated enough! There is a slight suggestion of morality in this story: the mechanical doll revolts and breaks down completely in response to male demands!

Jacques Offenbach - Les contes d'Hoffmann: Neil Shicoff, Bryn Terfel, Jesus Lopez-Cobos, Robert Carsen, Opéra de Paris, 2004, TDK.

The creative class: 22% of the country’s population! (and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 05-15-17 at 1:57 p.m.

Creativity as a form of personal expression

On the eve of next week's C2 Montréal, the immersive conclave combining commerce and creativity at Arsenal, I wanted to explore the expression of creativity in our country. There are several ways to measure creativity in a society. Richard Florida became famous in the early 2000s for pointing out the enormous economic value of the employees working in the companies that he classified as "creative" (The Rise of the Creative Class, Basic Books, 2002). Another measure is the number of patents filed, also a good indicator of a society's vitality, creativity and innovation.

But one can also measure a lesser-known phenomenon, one that I like to call the "need to create." Even though many people work in so-called creative companies, they don't all play creative roles (we wouldn't want bookkeepers in ad agencies to get too creative with their accounting, after all!). Of course, many do have tailor-made "creative" jobs that capitalize on their need to create.

The genius inventor has always been a fixture in society. He responds to "the need creates the organ" imperative by finding a creative solution to a specific problem (e.g., Joseph-Armand Bombardier and his invention of the snowmobile when he couldn't get help for his sick child because of snow-blocked roads).

In today's world, where many people are highly motivated by a need for self-expression, the need to create, to feel creative in one's daily activities no matter how trivial, has become inescapable and unstoppable (at work and at play), to the point where people will quit their jobs if they are unable to express their creativity.

One very simple statement in our surveys has allowed us to identify these individuals: "Throughout my various daily activities, it is very important for me to feel creative."

The need to express one's creativity: 22% of the population (perfectly equivalent throughout the country)

To use the expression coined by Richard Florida, I would consider people who "totally agree" with this statement to belong to our "creative class" because they need to be creative on a full time basis! No matter what type of work they do, these "creatives" represent an incredible force that companies, organisations and society need to find a way to capitalize on.

True, much of this creativity will find expression in recreational activities and hobbies, but we certainly have an opportunity to use it to create value in our society (no matter how you define it).

Younger age groups (those under 35 years of age) have the highest percentages of creative people. We know that many of the greatest artists, inventors and scientists have done their best work before their thirties.

Consequently, it should come as no surprise that creativity declines with age! It's as if, when people get older, they take comfort in the known, the predictable, the easily classifiable. Whereas younger people are excited by the unknown and want to reinvent the world!

Creativity is nourished by difference, by others, by novelty

Given the tremendous openness in the personal-values profile of the creative class, companies should be able to optimize the creativity in their organisations.


Those belonging to the creative class are very open to social diversity and continuously seek close and meaningful interactions with the people around them (whether they are well known or not). They want to discover other people, to be inspired by them, to feed on difference, to create a new world based on a "cultural melting pot." Difference and the stimulation arising from the human contact and discoveries associated with it seems to be one of the basic nutrients essential to creativity.

Openness to change also plays an essential role. Even when an organisation's business model is being disrupted, the novelty and new paradigms introduced by change become opportunities for different thinking and creativity.

The creative class has a strong desire for self-improvement. These people are aware of their potential and want to realize it at all costs. They have an irrepressible desire to express themselves, and creativity, whether they initiate or contribute to a creative project, is an ideal vehicle.

The "non-creatives" are also very interesting. They do not believe in the virtues of change; they only see the negatives! They decode what they see, or "discover," using ideas from the past. For them, creativity threatens the precious stability of their world order!


The opportunities for companies and organisations

We must harness this vitality. Give it its rightful place within the organization. Allow it to express itself, to emerge. Workplaces should be designed to encourage meetings and exchanges. Diversity should be promoted. Employees should be encouraged to express at work the same creativity they bring to their leisure activities. Organize meetings that bring people with different skill sets together to discuss creative ways of tackling problems. Bring together the most creative people from various backgrounds. Let them encourage other, less creative people who are still open to creativity, etc.

In this context, it is understandable that many "creative" companies in the United States are opposed to President Trump's immigration policies!

Architecture and design are crucial: open spaces, encouraging meetings and discussion, artwork, employee creations, common spaces, etc.

Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

A wonderful example of creativity colliding with tradition in society is this clip from Wagner's opera, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. A guild of artisans and mastersingers have, over the years, developed extremely rigid rules for their song contests. When one of their members introduces a newcomer with innovative and creative musical ideas, they reject him out of hand (although he triumphs at the end of the opera) ... Sublime!

Wagner - Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg / Heppner, Mattila, Morris, Pape, Allen, Polenzani, Levine, The Metropolitan Opera, New York, 2005, Deutsche Grammophon.

21% of Canadians believe it’s okay to disobey laws they think are stupid! (And Siegfried by Richard Wagner)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 05-01-17 at 1:51 p.m.

Fantasies of civil disobedience!

One in every five Canadians indulges in this kind of thinking. What's more, the numbers have been on a continuous uptick for the last 13 years! It's as if these individuals see a progressively fraying "social contract," which legitimizes disobeying laws and contravening the basic rules of civil society. However, we are not suggesting that this indicates a systematic path to anarchy. These citizens don't spend their time breaking the law. But this fantasy is undoubtedly an expression of their frustration with what they believe life has in store for them.

It is interesting to note that we find little significant variation on a regional level. This "defiance" is found in similar proportions from coast to coast, with the exception of Québec, where the proportion of people in agreement with this notion, at 25%, is significantly higher.

Specifically, we asked people in a survey representative of the entire adult Canadian population (18+ years of age) whether they agreed with the following statement: "When you think a law is stupid, it's OK not to obey it."

To this same question in 2004, 12% of Canadians agreed. Since then, we've witnessed a nearly 10-point rise (9%). People are getting bolder and bolder!

Young people and harsh socio-economic conditions

The demographic and socio-economic profile of these "potential lawbreakers" provides some context. We find a clear over-representation of this attitude among young people (under 35), the lowest-income earners in society, as well as among labourers and blue-collar workers. We can easily imagine how financial pressures lead these groups to feel this way.


But what we find most troubling about these results is the rise since 2004. If deteriorating socio-economic conditions are stoking this defiance, it's not all that surprising that, in our post-2008 world, the fantasy of civil disobedience on the rise.

Repeatedly, our research results have clearly indicated that the Great Recession of 2008 was unlike recessions before it. In the past, people expected the economy to recover after a recession. After the Great Recession, Canadians saw the world as infinitely more uncertain, complex and risky, and became convinced that this new world order was here to stay.

It is in this context that we need to interpret this fantasy of civil disobedience. People have the impression that they are facing an increasingly difficult world and that society simply isn't there for them. Hence, for them, the social contract is broken.

Feeling excluded

When we analyze the personal values and mentalities of these potential lawbreakers, what motivates this kind of attitude becomes even clearer.

Fundamentally, these people feel excluded from society. They are unable to find a place, goals or meaning there. They feel powerless, as if they have no control over their lives. They feel left behind, that no one gives a damn about them. Therefore, if society has abandoned them, why should they fulfill their societal obligations? More proof of a broken social contract.

They are also very cynical about the establishment, the business and political elites. They think everyone is lying to them. They trust no one. They are very pessimistic about today's world. The youngest have a jaundiced impression of the world left to them by earlier generations. In this kind of environment, disobedience becomes a legitimate way to adapt to today's society.


A social project

I can almost hear my marketing colleagues concluding that the answer is more rebellious, irreverent and politically incorrect brand marketing platforms. Indeed, for certain target groups, such a strategy when properly executed will definitely pay off.

But the issue here goes beyond marketing opportunities. Our findings indicate the way that our society and our governments have been "managing" this exclusion. To curb it, our institutions and companies, via their social engagement, need to put their resources into programs that promote inclusivity, mutual aid and social integration.

The Ontario government is launching a pilot project in a few municipalities that will provide a basic minimum income to try supporting vulnerable workers and giving people the security and opportunity they need to achieve their potential. This could help them retrain or go back to school. Other similar initiatives should be put in place to halt the rise in fantasies of civil disobedience-and even stop them from becoming reality!

The Talented Mr. Robot: The Impact of Automation on Canada's Workforce, a recent report by the Brookfield Institute at Toronto's Ryerson University, concludes that nearly 42% of the Canadian labour force is at high risk of being affected by automation in the next 10-20 years!

If this scenario materializes, even minimally, we, as a society, will need a lot of creativity to fight the exclusion and civil disobedience it could engender (though, we hope, not anything as extreme as the world of "Mad Max"!).

Richard Wagner's Siegfried

Viewed from a more philosophical perspective, all eras undergo movements of civil disobedience. Youth tend to be critical of the preceding generation's regime and want to be rid of it, to take their rightful place. In their analyses of primitive societies, anthropologists talk about "symbolic castration," symbolic patricide-the father being the author of the laws and rules.

This is precisely the theme of the third act of Siegfried, the third opera in Wagner's four-part Ring cycle (The Ring of the Nibelung). Siegfried meets his grandfather, Wotan, the supreme god, who carries a spear engraved with the laws and rules governing the world. Wotan protects access to his daughter (Siegfried's aunt), who sleeps within a ring of fire. Siegfried breaks the spear, defeats Wotan (castration) and makes off with his aunt! When Wagner created this work in 1876, Freud's psychoanalytical texts had yet to be written!

The extract here is the overture to the third act, a magnificent orchestral foreshadowing of the drama to come (the castration, the aunt, everything!).

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen - Complete Ring Cycle (James Levine, Metropolitan Opera), Siegfried Jerusalem, Hildegard Behrens, James Morris, Brian Large (Director), Deutsche Grammophon, New York, 2002.