[VIEWPOINT]It takes a lot of nerve to cheerJune is the month that heralds the arrival of summer. It is even hotter than usual this year, the fires being stoked by the cheering for the World Cup. The fans gather on the streets and plazas, wearing red shirts and shouting “Dae Han Min Guk” as loud as they can.
The street cheering that started four years ago has now staked a place for itself in the culture of the Republic of Korea. The fans’ fanaticism ― staying up all night in the streets to cheer for the Korean national teams, whose games started at 4 a.m. ― became a news story across the world.
What made the behavior of Korean cheering squads so peculiar is that it was not ordered by someone, but took place reflexively, provoked by the World Cup soccer matches.
In the operation of the human body, there are also spontaneous reactions. They are controlled by the autonomic nerve system, not the general nerve system, which is centered in the brain.
Although such operations are not performed under orders by the brain, they perform essential functions for keeping our body healthy by protecting us and helping us adapt to the changes in the outside environment. The autonomic nerve system consists of sympathetic nerves and the para-sympathetic nerves.
In a situation in which our body is facing a crisis or is under stress, the sympathetic nerves mainly function by raising one’s blood pressure, speeding up the heartbeat or generating sweat to protect the body.
On the other hand, the para-sympathetic nerves serve the function of having our body prepared for a crisis, by maintaining the harmony of the human body in ordinary times through proper digestion, sleep and urination.
Therefore, people with strong autonomic nerve systems can stay in peak physical condition by adapting to any kind of environmental change. In a social organizations, too, the spontaneous acts that have nothing to do with company rules and are not under the direction of any central manager can play important roles.
The function of the autonomic nerve system in the human body and other similar behavior can be called “organizational citizenship behavior (OCB),” a phrase coined by a sociologist Dennis Organ in 1988. It refers to individual behaviors that are beneficial to the organization and are discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by a formal reward system.
Examples of this form of citizenship behavior include such things as collecting waste paper thrown out by others, and refraining from littering, and more active behavior, such as publicizing the merits of the company to people around or helping the work of other branches of the company for the company’s fame.
One good example of the citizenship behavior is the case of a woman employee of Southwest Airlines. According to the regulations of airline companies, passengers are banned from taking their pets when they board an airplane. In order not to spoil the two-week-long holidays of a passenger who brought a pet because he was unaware of the regulation, the employee took the dog home with her and took care of it for the passenger.
Since the case has started to be quoted as an example of moving the hearts of customers at academic meetings on marketing and books on business management, it has become a famous episode that contributed to the near-legendary reputation of Southwest Airlines.
In order for a body to be strong and competitive, both the general nerve system and the autonomic nerve system must be healthy and sound. Social organization can also become strong and competitive when spontaneous citizenship behavior functions smoothly in concert with the proper functioning of well-arranged regulations and a command system.
Experts say the reason Toyota Motors Corp. of Japan exceeds the big three U.S. automakers is because Toyota has a “citizenship culture,” under which its employees dedicate themselves to the company. If spontaneous citizenship behavior like World Cup cheering persists in our society, it will be of great help to our international competitiveness.
At the same time, we have to remember that, as it is important to unite all members of our society and dedicate ourselves to our society and organization in a crisis situation or for winning in the World Cup matches, it is also important to clear the places around us after the game is over and to prepare spontaneously for the future after we overcome whatever crisis it is we are facing.
I hope that the spontaneous behavior of patriotism created with the World Cup fever persists in our society even after the World Cup is over and further develops into a higher level of citizenship behavior, so that we can prepare for the future.
* The writer is the president of the Soon Chun Hyang University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Suh Kyo-il