Within a company conflicts are inevitable. Interdepartmental interests are often not the same, resulting in tensions. The economics of convention will help to understand the conventions and interests of each in order to improve collaboration.
The 7 worlds of the economics of convention
Mixed between economics and sociology, the current of the economics of convention allows to better understand the conflicts within companies or between professional partners. Thanks to an analysis of the conventions of different worlds, it is then easier to understand the interests of each and to find common ground.
According to the theory of economics of convention, each world has its own higher principle and basis of convention. In a conflict, define which worlds each party belongs to. This will allow you to understand what their interests are and how to reach an agreement. The 7 worlds come from the work of Luc Boltanski, economist, and Laurent Thévenot, sociologist.
- Upper principle : Trust
- Basis of conventions : Reputation and esteem
- Relationships : Relational and spatial proximity
- Higher principle : Efficiency
- Basis of conventions : Standardization
- Relationships : Functional and anonymous
- Higher principle: Competition
- Basis of conventions: Price
- Relationships: Opportunistic
- Higher principle: Solidarity
- Basis of conventions: Collective interest and law
- Relationships: Egalitarian, hierarchical and subsidiary
World of opinion
- Higher principle: Fame
- Basis of conventions: Branding and success
- Relationships: Influence, identification and recognition
World of inspiration
- Higher principle: Creation
- Basis of conventions: Uniqueness and originality
- Relationships: Informal and spontaneous
World of the project
- Higher principle: Activity and autonomy
- Basis of conventions: Shared experience, freedom and commitment
- Relationships: Open and combinatorial
Positioning oneself in the different categories
In economics of convention, a company does not necessarily belong in one world. It often belongs to several worlds, but some are more important than others. If we take Swatch as an example, in which world would you place them?
The industrial world ? Yes, certainly, Swatch is an expert in standardization and optimization of production processes.
The commercial world ? Yes, Swatch offers Swiss watches at affordable prices in a very competitive sector.
The world of inspiration ? Yes, the design of a watch is essential, Swatch offers a range of watches with original visuals. It has made it its signature.
The world of opinion ? Yes, the brand image is important for Swatch. The release of certain watches are real events and they try to occupy the media space as efficiently as possible.
It is then easy to understand that even within a company conflicts are inevitable. For some departments, one world will be more important than another and this can create tensions. But in the example of Swatch we can consider the commercial world as the main world. Above all Swatch sells watches. In the case of conflict, positioning oneself in one world will allow us to understand that this is the main objective of the company.
But the example doesn’t have to be a multinational like Swatch. Take a music band. Its members can give importance to different worlds, the world of opinion, the world of inspiration or the commercial world. The conventions of these 3 worlds are very different, if all the members of the band do not position themselves in the same world then tensions will appear.
In these examples, we can understand the importance of the economics of convention in any sector, from small businesses to multinationals.
How to apply the economics of convention?
In your professional activity, you have to address someone and the discussion could be a source of disagreement and or potential conflict then you can apply the economics of convention.
- Target the world(s) to which you belong and to which your interlocutor belongs.
- If you have a world in common then take advantage of it! You should be able to understand each other. Apply the conventions and principles of that world. Emphasize your common interests.
- If you do not belong to the same worlds, adapt your speech to the world of your interlocutor. Present how your idea can also be of interest in his field. They will be more receptive and you will find common ground.
- You can also explain to your interviewer what the conventions and principles of your world are in order to make him understand your vision.
You can also use this advice to find a solution to an ongoing conflict.
For more information on this topic
De la justification : les économies de la grandeur de Luc Boltanski et Laurent Thevenot
Les spatialités des économies de la grandeur : une application au secteur agro-alimentaire suisse de Olivier Crevoisier et Nathalie Gigon
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