Are You Future Oriented? Your Language Tells the Tale

The structure of the language spoken by a company’s top team affects the firm’s planning for the future, according to doctoral student Hao Liang, Christopher Marquis of Harvard Business School, and two colleagues. If the language is English, Spanish, or one of many others that use mainly grammar, rather than context, to distinguish present from future (“It is raining,” “It will rain”), people tend to focus less on the future, presumably because it seems more distant. On corporate social responsibility, which is a highly future-oriented activity, firms in countries speaking these “strong-future-time-reference” languages underperform firms in weak-future-time-reference countries by more than 1.2 grades on a 7-step scale, the researchers say.

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