Recently I stumbled upon the popular reality TV show Duck Dynasty. Now I am not from the south, I have never been hunting, and I am certainly not a “redneck,” but the adventures of the Robertson clan, who became wealthy from their family-operated business Duck Commander, had me hooked fifteen minutes into my first episode. As someone who spends a great amount of time in conversation with families and studying family owned businesses, there is much to glean from the weekly adventures of the Robertson clan. What I found most interesting is how the Robertson’s relational style, which from the outside might seem a bit tumultuous but after closer viewing can best be described as open and supportive, might be the main contributing factor to what is now not just a wildly successful duck call business, but a very lucrative media empire.
In the latest Interdisciplinary Journal of Family Studies, researchers argue that families characterized by high conversation orientation and moderate conformity orientation, or in other words, families like the Robertson’s that like to talk to each other and are willing to break some rules along the way, tend to be supportive business families and are associated with the highest levels of innovativeness in family-controlled firms. The researchers write that family-operated firms that have an open communication style that features unrestrained discussion and is inclusive to all family members will have participative strategic processes, reduced relational conflicts, and enhanced innovativeness. On the other hand, families that have an emphasis on conformity to parental authority and make decisions without input from all family members will be heading up firms where innovation is inhibited.
So do not let the beards and the camouflage fool you. These unlikely entrepreneurs have discovered in the swamps of Louisiana the secret of innovation, and it can be found around the Robertson’s dinner table at the end of each episode.
Sciascia, Salvatore, et al. “Family communication and innovativeness in family firms.” Family Relations 62.3 (2013): 429-442.