Meaning, Types, Importance, Impact of Belief
Belief is a thought about events, objects, concepts, people, or the relationship between these things. Beliefs are the cause-effect understandings that a group of individuals share about their world. Stemming from their education, training, organisational experience, and observations, individuals develop an understanding of “how the world works”, and what succeeds and what does not.
Solutions to problems are incorporated into the experience set of individuals and thus get transformed into beliefs. Beliefs are less specific than the norms governing daily behaviour; they offer more general guidelines about how organisational members should act to obtain desired results. Thus, belief is an offer about how the world works, that a person accepts as true; it is a cognitive fact for an individual.
Related Article:- Factors Influencing Perception
Organisations develop a vast repertoire of beliefs over time about matters internal or external to the organisation. Critical externally focused beliefs are about strategy and the competitive environment – how to win in the marketplace, what environmental change taking place and the forces is shaping the market segments the firm is in or wants to enter. Such beliefs are often about customers, suppliers, technology, Government, and, of course, competitors.
Internally focused beliefs are about attributes of the organisation, and how to manage and lead the organisation. Core beliefs often address what good management means, what the prerequisites are to good management, and what a successful organisation looks like.
Dominant beliefs in some organizations address organisation structure (e.g., “a flat organisation structure leads to more rapid and effective decision making”), costs (“we need to invest heavily to reduce our break-even point”), manufacturing (“our antiquated machinery is inhibiting the production of products with superior functionality”) and personnel (“the investment in executive education and development has led to the savviest management team in the industry”).
Types of Beliefs
Organisations develop a vast repertoire of beliefs over time about matters internal or external to the organisation. Numerous beliefs govern the lives and actions in our relationships with individuals and organisational systems. Some beliefs are very central and much stronger than others. Some beliefs are easily changed while others support the very fibre of existence of the individual.
Rokeach has classified beliefs into five major categories which are as follows:
1) Primitive Beliefs
These are those that are learned by direct encounters with the object of the belief and are strongly supported by a social consensus among all of one’s reference persons or groups. Primitive beliefs represent one’s “basic truth” about the “nature of oneself”, social reality, and physical reality.
Primitive beliefs focus on an individual, objects, and self-constancy. Rokeach feels that object and social constancy (maintaining the system) is required to have self-constancy (maintaining the self). People learn that other people also experience the world in the same way as they do. Constant experiences build the primitive beliefs of life, faith, trust, and death.
Rokeach believes that if an individual’s basic beliefs are violated, a person would struggle to survive as his senses and abilities to cope with reality would be summarily challenged. If these violations remained unresolved, the person would become dysfunctional.
Rokeach states that in the beginning, all beliefs are primitive as we are unaware that all people do not share all of their beliefs. The effects of culture, race, and geography may alter the shared beliefs of the people.
2) Primitive, Zero-Consensus Beliefs
Some primitive beliefs are not universal they only support self-identity and are learned only through direct encounters. The maintenance of the belief is not dependent on other people for validation, Central to these beliefs is the idea that should others not share the same belief, it will be difficult to challenge as one person may perceive such a thing that “others do not”.
Faith in God is an example of this type – of belief. Drug-induced hallucinations render experiences that could be considered primitive, a phobia, and zero consensus beliefs. Other examples of zero-consensus beliefs include trusting an idea even when there is no supporting evidence, having faith in one’s intelligence, or fear of being abused.
3) Authority Beliefs
Authority beliefs are those of our primitive beliefs for which we must obtain both: positive and negative validation. Our reference persons, groups, and systems establish a legitimation process for how individuals view the world and set the boundaries for what is important in their lives.
Examples of authorities that validate the primitive beliefs of an individual are family, peer groups, ethnic groups, religious groups, political groups, and the legal system. The more direct encounters people have with other persons or groups, the larger our sphere of positive and negative authority figures grows.
Authority beliefs can be changed more easily than primitive beliefs. Important emotional events can change authority beliefs as can reference groups changing their stance.
4) It allows an understanding of how intense conflict towards authority figures and intense loyalty to groups can co-exist.
5) Investigating beliefs permit one to rationalize why an organisation, or nation, seeks the help of management experts to improve productivity and effectiveness and then often ignores the suggestions for improvement.
Impact of beliefs
The impact of beliefs is explained below:
1) Impact of Beliefs on Behaviour
Beliefs affect behaviour in the following ways:
i) Limits People’s Potential: Beliefs affect behaviour by preventing people from taking certain actions that they would have otherwise taken if the belief was not there. A wise kid will never study for exams and so fails the exams if he believes that he is not intelligent.
ii) Evokes Information Filtering: We filter information based on our beliefs and only absorb the information that matches our belief system. This impacts our behaviour by making us biased towards what we consider no matter how many proofs are provided. That is why persuading someone to believe in something against his beliefs is hard.
iii) Shapes Reality: If a person thinks that he will never find a job (a belief) then he will not become motivated to prepare himself for the job market (behaviour change) and later on when he tries to find a job he will fail (so his belief will become true). That is how beliefs can be used to shape reality.
iv) Effects of Self-Confidence: Self-confidence is no more than a set belief that one has about himself. If those beliefs were positive then he will behave like a confident person while if they become negative, his behaviour will be changed to the opposite.
2) Impact of Beliefs on Attitude
Belief is the basic building block of attitudes. Fishbein claims that an attitude is the product of the strength of a belief about the attitude object and the evaluation of the attitude object summed across all beliefs held regarding a given attitude object.
Sherif and colleagues advance the notion that an attitude toward an object is a unidimensional representation of one’s beliefs regarding the object, such that any belief statements with which an individual agrees are said to fall within the individual’s latitude of acceptance.
The remaining statements, those with which the individual is in disagreement as well as those with which he or she neither agrees nor disagrees, constitute the latitudes of rejection and non-commitment. Thus, an individual’s system of beliefs concerning a given attitude to objects helps to form his or her overall attitude toward the thing.
3) Impact of Beliefs on Perception
In reality, perception is merely the effect of any given belief. It is a causal process by which the physical states of the world influence our beliefs. How someone can view, see and perceive things in the physical world has happened as a result of a belief that he has established at some point in the past.
Often those perceptions can be flawed or at least quite limited depending on how they have been acquired and the evidence that presented itself which determined how you arrived at any given conclusion.
Managerial Implications of Beliefs
Managerial implications of beliefs are as follows:
1) Gives Direction
A manager with strong beliefs about the right course of action will attract, through sorting in the labour market, employees with similar beliefs. This alignment of beliefs gives direction to the organization and has important implications for coordination and incentives.
2) Shapes Corporate Behaviour and Performance
Organisational beliefs can shape corporate behaviour and performance. Donaldson and Lorsch, in their extensive study of top management decisions, stated that beliefs and corporate strategy are closely intertwined-at times almost indistinguishably so.
Example: Until 1995, Microsoft & Sun held nearly opposite beliefs regarding computing, which led them to very different strategic choices
3) Helps in Situation Analysis
Beliefs play essential roles in perceiving a current situation, identifying appropriate actions, and predicting the effects of these actions.
4) Derived Beliefs
Believing in the validity and credibility of a particular authority or reference group establishes acceptance of other beliefs that emanate from religious and political institutions to which one looks for guidance. They would also be facts derived from the reference documents.
Examples of derived beliefs from political and religious institutions would include the Moral Majority’s views on fiscal responsibility, views on abortion, or affirmative action.
5) Inconsequential Beliefs
These beliefs encompass matters of taste. They are capable of being changed much like derived, authority beliefs, and develop from their direct experience. Beliefs may be swiftly held but are insignificant because they have no relationship to other beliefs. They usually do not impact decision making and rarely impact self-identity.
Importance of Beliefs
Beliefs are important due to following reasons:
1) Beliefs are important because behaviour depends on beliefs. Everything one does can be traced back to beliefs one holds about the world. Thus, beliefs help to determine one’s reactions to others’ behaviour.
2) Beliefs are important not only in studying the general characteristics of a society but also in mapping the orientations of special segments in the society and its expectations of how and what things may evolve over a particular course of action.
3) Through understanding beliefs, one can decipher most of the behaviours observed, particularly the seeming incongruity between individualism and the intense commitment to consensus in some cultures and group work.