Every one of us already realizes and knows that we are living in a global age. Technology has brought everyone much closer together. This means that people of different cultures find themselves working together and communicating more and more. This is exciting, but it can also be frustrating and fraught with uncertainty. How do you relate to someone of another culture? What do you say, or not say, to start a conversation right? Are there cultural taboos that you need to be aware of? Building connections with people from around the world is just one dimension of cultural diversity. You will also need to factor it into motivating people, structuring projects, and developing strategy. Of course there are so many question on our head how can we understand cultural differences? Are we relegated to learning from our mistakes, or are there generalized guidelines to follow? Fortunately, psychologist Dr. Geert Hofstede asked himself this question in the 1970s. What emerged after a decade of research and thousands of interviews is a model of cultural dimensions that has become an internationally recognized standard.
Before we talk about the theory further further let us know more about Geert Hofstede deeper. Geert Hofstede, a widely known Dutch researcher of culture, has defined culture as “the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.” During 1978-83, he conducted detailed interviews with hundreds of IBM employees in 53 countries. Through standard statistical analysis of large data sets, he determined patterns of similarities and differences among the replies. From this data analysis, he developed five dimensions of culture. In the 1990s, Hofstede published results of his research in publication Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. Initially he developed four dimensions in culture, but added a fifth dimension in 1991. Moreover Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory is a framework for cross-cultural communication, developed by Geert. It describes the effects of a society’s culture on the values of its members, and how these values relate to behavior, using a structure derived from factor analysis.
The theory has been widely used in several fields as a paradigm for research, particularly in cross-cultural psychology, international management, and cross-cultural communication. The original theory proposed four dimensions along which cultural values could be analyzed: individualism-collectivism; uncertainty avoidance; power distance (strength of social hierarchy) and masculinity-femininity (task orientation versus person-orientation). Independent research in Hong Kong led Hofstede to add a fifth dimension, long-term orientation, to cover aspects of values not discussed in the original paradigm. In the 2010 edition of Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind Hofstede added a sixth dimension, indulgence versus self-restraint, as a result of co-author Michael Minkov’s analysis of data from the World Values Survey.
Before we jump further, let us see what is the identification of culture itself in terms of Hofstede termination, culture to be mental programming of the mind: every person carries within him or herself patterns of thinking; feeling; and potential acting which were learned throughout their lifetime (Hofstede, 2005 p4). He identified 3 layers of mental programming that are: individual, collective and universal. Based on these 3 layers he constructed his culture triangle (see figure 1). The Individual level (personality) is focused on the mental programming exclusive to each person. Hofstede suggests that this level is at least partly inherited. The Collective Level (culture) is focused on the mental programming that is learned from others, that is specific to a group of people. The Universal level (human nature) is focused on all humans, and is also likely inherited: instincts for survival et cetera.
Figure 1: Hofstede’s Culture Triangle
With access to people working for the same organization in over 40 countries of the world, Hofstede collected cultural data and analyzed his findings. He initially identified four distinct cultural dimensions that served to distinguish one culture from another. Later he added a fifth dimension, and that is how the model stands today. He scored each country using a scale of roughly 0 to 100 for each dimension. The higher the score, the more that dimension is exhibited in society.
The Five Dimensions of Culture
Armed with a large database of cultural statistics, Hofstede analyzed the results and found clear patterns of similarity and difference amid the responses along these five dimensions. Interestingly, his research was done on employees of IBM only, which allowed him to attribute the patterns to national differences in culture, largely eliminating the problem of differences in company culture. The five dimensions are:
1. Power/Distance (PD)
This refers to the degree of inequality that exists – and is accepted – among people with and without power. Power distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.” Cultures that endorse low power distance expect and accept power relations that are more consultative or democratic. A high PD score indicates that society accepts an unequal distribution of power, and that people understand “their place” in the system. Low PD means that power is shared and well dispersed. It also means that society members view themselves as equals. Application: According to Hofstede’s model, in a high PD country such as Malaysia (104), you would probably send reports only to top management and have closed-door meetings where only select powerful leaders were in attendance. PD| Characteristics| Tips|
High PD| * Centralized companies. * Strong hierarchies. * Large gaps in compensation, authority, and respect.| * Acknowledge a leader’s power. * Be aware that you may need to go to the top for answers| Low PD| * Flatter organizations. * Supervisors and employees are considered almost as equals.| * Use teamwork. * Involve as many people as possible in decision making.|
2. Individualism (IDV)
This refers to the strength of the ties people have to others within the community. A high IDV score indicates loose connections. People have large extended families, which are used as a protection in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. In countries with a high IDV score there is a lack of interpersonal connection, and little sharing of responsibility beyond family and perhaps a few close friends. A society with a low IDV score would have strong group cohesion, and there would be a large amount of loyalty and respect for members of the group. The group itself is also larger and people take more responsibility for each other’s well being.
Application: Hofstede’s analysis suggests that in the Central American countries of Panama and Guatemala where the IDV scores are very low (11 and 6, respectively), a marketing campaign that emphasized benefits to the community or that tied into a popular political movement would likely be understood and well received.
This talks about how much a society sticks with values, traditional male and female roles. Masculine cultures’ values are competitiveness, assertiveness, materialism, ambition and power, whereas feminine cultures place more value on relationships and quality of life. In masculine cultures, the differences between gender roles are more dramatic and less fluid than in feminine cultures where men and women have the same values emphasizing modesty and caring. High MAS scores are found in countries where men are expected to be “tough,” to be the provider, and to be assertive. If women work outside the home, they tend to have separate professions from men. Low MAS scores do not reverse the gender roles. In a low MAS society, the roles are simply blurred. You see women and men working together equally across many professions. Men are allowed to be sensitive, and women can work hard for professional success.
Application: Japan is highly masculine with a score of 95, whereas Sweden has the lowest measured value (5). According to Hofstede’s analysis, if you were to open an office in Japan, you might have greater success if you appointed a male employee to lead the team and had a strong male contingent on the team. In Sweden, on the other hand, you would aim for a team that was balanced in terms of skill rather than gender.
MAS| Characteristics| Tips|
High MAS| * Men are masculine and women are feminine. * There is a well-defined distinction between men’s work and women’s work.| * Be aware that people may expect male and female roles to be distinct. * Advise men to avoid discussing emotions or making emotionally based decisions or arguments.| Low MAS| * A woman can do anything a man can do. * Powerful and successful women are admired and respected.| * Avoid an “old boys’ club” mentality. * Ensure job design and practices are not discriminatory to gender * Treat men and women equally.|
4. Uncertainty/Avoidance Index (UAI)
This relates to the degree of anxiety that society members feel when in uncertain or unknown situations. High UAI-scoring nations try to avoid ambiguous situations whenever possible. It reflects the extent to which members of a society attempt to cope with anxiety by minimizing uncertainty. People in cultures with high uncertainty avoidance tend to be more emotional. In contrast, low uncertainty avoidance cultures accept and feel comfortable in unstructured situations or changeable environments and try to have as few rules as possible. People in these cultures tend to be more pragmatic, they are more tolerant of changeThey are governed by rules and order and they seek a collective “truth.” Low UAI scores indicate that the society enjoys novel events and values differences. There are very few rules, and people are encouraged to discover their own truth.
Application: Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions imply that when discussing a project with people in Belgium, whose country scored a 94 on the UAI scale, you should investigate the various options and then present a limited number of choices, but have very detailed information available on your contingency and risk plans. (Note that there will be cultural differences between French and Dutch speakers in Belgium.)
5. Long Term Orientation (LTO)
This is the fifth dimension that Hofstede added in the 1990s, after finding that Asian countries with a strong link to Confucian philosophy acted differently from Western cultures. In countries with a high LTO score, delivering on social obligations and avoiding “loss of face” are considered very important. This refers to how much society values long-standing – as opposed to short-term – traditions and values. It describes societies’ time horizon. Long-term oriented societies attach more importance to the future. They foster pragmatic oriented towards rewards, including persistence, saving and capacity for adaptation. In short term oriented societies, values promoted are related to the past and the present, including steadiness, respect for tradition, preservation of one’s face, reciprocation and fulfilling social obligations.
Application: According to Hofstede’s analysis, people in the United States and United Kingdom have low LTO scores. This suggests that you can pretty much expect anything in this culture in terms of creative expression and novel ideas. The model implies that people in the U.S. and U.K. don’t value tradition as much as many others, and are therefore likely to be willing to help you execute the most innovative plans as long as they get to participate fully. (This may be surprising to people in the U.K., with its associations of tradition.) LTO| Characteristics| Tips|
High LTO| * Family is the basis of society. * Parents and men have more authority than young people and women. * Strong work ethic and high value placed on education and training.| * Show respect for traditions. * Do not display extravagance or act frivolously. * Reward perseverance, loyalty, and commitment.| Low LTO| * Promotion of equality. * High creativity, individualism. * Treat others as you would like to be treated. * Self-actualization is sought.| * Expect to live by the same standards and rules you create. * Be respectful of others. * Do not hesitate to introduce necessary changes.|
The latest one that has just been added by Geert itself is Indulgence versus restraint (IVR): The extent to which member in society tries to control their desires and impulses. Whereas indulgent societies have a tendency to allow relatively free gratification of basic and natural human desires related to enjoying life and having fun, restrained societies have a conviction that such gratification needs to be curbed and regulated by strict norms.
After the publications of the theory I especially directly know the evidence that organization or family are different from each other, we used to believe that deep inside all people everywhere anytime are the same. In fact, as we are generally not aware of other countries’ cultures, we tend to minimize cultural differences. This leads to misunderstandings and misinterpretation between people from different countries. Instead of the convergence phenomena, cultural differences are still significant today and diversity tends to increase. The in order to be able to have respectful cross-cultural relations, we have to be aware of these cultural differences. So here I would like to analyze of those 5-dimension theory of Geert Hofstede and also the spirit of leadership in the application of my community, organization, and family. First, regarding to the power or hierarchy, I can see that the organization even family I had now is got very high score of power or hierarchy. Asian country especially south East Asia country included Indonesia widely known as the east part of the world has very long hierarchy process in organization.
It needs to follow so much unbiased rules and regulation that never existed in western country. Another thing in my organization or family is centralized meaning the leader is everything; the leader in a group or family (parents, father especially) can do what they want. They take control of every single thing and execute all of things that they think it is right to be executed. The leader power here is also get tons of acknowledgements of power also compensation, authority, and respect in the way they behave in the community. And not many things you can really do over there unless you have top Harvard quality student of opinion or sight. Second, it is regarding to the individualism. This individualism model can be positive or negative.
Its position is more in the between good and bad, depends on the condition that an individual face. Widely known in Indonesia that it has relatively low score. Indonesia as part of the Eastern country world is very low on facing the condition of being individual. It also here in my organization and family where the entire member included leader and sub ordinaries are not really independent in terms of individual people’s eye. They here one hundred percent have totality in suppress feelings and emotions to work in harmony Besides that tradition are the main habit of my community to be respected even it cost slow changes.
This thing is also inter-related with showing respect for age and wisdom. Another good thing about having low individualism is the willing of my mates in emphasizing on building skills and becoming master or pro of a specific skill on something detail. They also have very high appreciation of intrinsic rewards. Lastly what I have been seeing in the community I have been involved in that they really support the creation of harmony in the community even it needs to scarify the honesty.
Third thing is masculinity. Once again as the historical and geographical background of most Indonesian majority is Islamic people which really praise the superiority of men. Same also with the minority, Chinese people of Indonesian really put more eyes on men compared to women. Men in Indonesia can be said has higher status than the women. They are different from each other. Both men and women is really distinguish and well defined in work, job, attitude, and behavior in the neighborhood. Some people really praise this condition so they really have high expectation on putting men over women which men advised is really being a high terminology on discussing emotion or making emotionally based argument even decision. Fourth, regarding to the uncertainty method, what I face in my organization or family is really in between. I really mean that it is in the middle, not really high not even low. But somehow if it is calculated deeply I can conclude it is more on the low side with the comparison of 60:40 for low uncertainty.
I can say it is low because there is some informal business attitude in executing the activities in family even organization. They act not really formal like in army but it is more enjoyable and fun but still serious. Then another why I say it is informal that mostly the organization mates do not really impose rules or structure unnecessarily. Besides that also can be seen there is minimization in controlling emotional response by being calm and contemplating situations before speaking. Las thing is people do not really afraid of expressing curiosity when some differences or irrelevant concept found. Another supporting condition but not I found which also make the 40 percent disagreement are there are more concern with long term strategy than what is happening on a daily basis and also accepting of change and risk.
Both thing are hardly founded in my organization, they prefer to be stick on what have drawn before. Fifth is regarding to the long-term orientation that has been just added by Geert. This condition is 100 percent high. Easily founded everywhere not only in my organization and family that family, family, and family is based on everything in the society. It should be on the top of priority compared to another element in the society. In the family itself parents especially has absolute power and authority compared another member which also another member without demanded give respect for tradition terms. Another thing that the terms of an individual displaying extravagance or acting frivolously is reaching zero percent in behavior action that has high reward perseverance, loyal, and total commitment.
This condition exactly leads to strong work ethic and high valued placed on the training and education. Last method is just recently developed can be said not really playing important role but worth slightly to be discussed which is indulgence versus restraint. This is quite high in Indonesia that everyone needs to control desire and also impulses of what there flesh demand. In other word in organization, family, group, and also community that I have been involved in in Indonesia are being super strict to many traditional views of law and norm that exist in neighborhood which also the inheritance of the ancestor created and did. So being totally freedom as in the heaven is hardly found.
The creation of this theory really become valuable for everyone as there is differences between culture in family and also organization from one and other. Thus people can prepare for it. Another thing of this creation model theory can provide us the chance of demonstrating management competencies such as personal motivation, time management, organization and communication. The knowledge we get also important to evaluate and compare community, organization, management, nation, continent, and an era. Furthermore it is hoped that the skill and ability gained from this paper can be added to rich our multi cultural point of view and be useful from high value consulting standpoint.
Courtney from Study Moose
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