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Chapter 3

We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.

-- Talmud Bavli Ancient book of wisdom, Babylonia

(p. 45)

As economic borders come down, cultural barriers will most likely go up and present new challenges and opportunities for business. When cultures come in contact, they may converge in some aspects, but their idiosyncrasies will likely amplify.
-- Robert J. House University of Pennsylvania
(p. 45)

Opening question:
How would you describe your own cultural background to a stranger so he or she could better understand how you think and work?

Why is this so difficult to do?

Water is the last thing a fish notices. -- Lao Tzu

Water is the last thing a fish notices.

-- Lao Tzu

-- Lao Tzu

Topic for today: Culture, values, and worldviews

Culture, socialization, and normative behavior Core cultural dimensions: A starting point Regional trends and cultural differences Digging deeper: Cultural complexities and contradictions

Consider: Anna Hkansson

1. Anna Hkansson has been assigned to travel from Sweden to Bahrain to negotiate a partnership with Gulf One Investment Bank. How did she initially attempt to learn about her Bahrain destination? 2. Did she learn something useful in preparation for her journey? What did she learn? What did she miss?

(p. 46)

Cultural trends: Sweden and Bahrain Following Hofstedes model

Low power distance High individualism

High power distance Medium individualism

Low masculinity
Medium uncertainty avoidance

High masculinity
High uncertainty avoidance

(p. 49)

Was there a better way for Anna Hkansson to get this information? And more generally, how can managers best learn useful information about the cultures where they will be working?

Start at the beginning: What is culture?

Some definitions:

What is culture?
The collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from another. (Geert Hofstede) The collection of beliefs, values, behaviors, customs, and attitudes that distinguish the people of one society from another. (Clyde Kluckholm)

Shared motives, values, beliefs, identities, and interpretations or meanings of significant events that result from common experiences of members of collectives that are transmitted across generations. (Robert House and GLOBE associates) A toolkit of symbols, stories, rituals, and worldviews that help the people of a culture survive and succeed. (Ann Swidler)
(p. 50)

Levels of mental programming

(p. 51)

Characteristics of culture
Culture is shared by members of a group and sometimes define the membership of the group itself.
Culture is learned though membership in a group or community. Culture influences the attitudes and behaviors of group members (e.g., normative behavior).

(pp. 50-51)

Example: Culture and normative behavior

Western vs. Islamic banking and investments
In the West, bank customers expect to receive interest on their deposits. In Islamic banking, the Quran prohibits paying or receiving interest; this is seen as taking advantage of others who are less fortunate. Instead, bank customers entrust funds to banks in exchange for profit-sharing (mudaraba).

In the West, stock market transactions are open to investments and speculation in almost anything. Under Islamic law, only investments in economic activities that are consistent with the values of Islam are acceptable (halal).

Consider: What is the impact of such differences when doing business across borders?

(p. 53)

Culture provides its members with . . .

Self identity: Who am I?
Belongingness and social support: Where do I belong? Guidelines for behavior: What should I do or not do? Sense of purpose: Why am I here? Predictability and security: What will happen to me?


Members vs. non-members: The place of foreigners

Definition: A foreigner is a person born in another country; an alien; a person regarded as an outsider or stranger. Xenophobia: A fear or dislike of strangers or foreigners. All cultures differentiate between members and nonmembers or foreigners (e.g., Gaijin in Japanese), and all countries have some people who are xenophobic. Consider: 1. In your world, does foreigner have a good or bad connotation? Are foreigners threats or opportunities? 2. How can foreigners become members of your particular culture or society?

Question: What can we learn from cultural anthropology to better understand our global work environment? The challenge: Which framework is most useful for understanding cultural differences from a managerial standpoint?


The dilemma: The culture theory jungle

(pp. 55-57)

Cultural dimensions: Hofstede

(see Appendix A)

Cultural dimensions: Hall

(see Appendix A)

Cultural dimensions: Trompenaars

(see Appendix A)

Cultural dimensions: GLOBE


(see Appendix A)

Seeking convergence for managers: Core cultural dimensions

(pp. 55-57)

Core cultural dimensions

(p. 58)

Power distribution
Centralized. Belief that power should be distributed hierarchically across society. Belief in ascribed or inherited power with ultimate authority residing in institutions. Emphasis on organizing vertically and autocratic or centralized decision-making.

Decentralized. Belief that power should be distributed relatively equally across society. Belief in shared or elected power with ultimate authority residing in the people. Emphasis on organizing horizontally and participatory or decentralized decision-making.

Emphasis on who is in charge.

Acceptance of authority; reluctance to question authority.

Emphasis on who is best qualified.

Rejection or skepticism of authority; willingness to question authority.


Social relationships
Person-centered. Belief that people achieve selfidentity through individual accomplishment.

Group-centered. Belief that people achieve self-identity through group membership. Preference for preserving social harmony over individual rights. Focus on accomplishing group goals. Sanctions reinforce conformity to group norms. Relationship-based agreements. Tendency toward high-context (subtle, indirect) communication and group or participative decision-making.

Focus on accomplishing individual goals.

Sanctions reinforce independence and personal responsibility. Contract-based agreements. Tendency toward low-context (direct, frank) communication and individual decision-making.


Environmental relationships
Mastery-oriented Harmony-oriented
Accommodation with nature. Focus on living in harmony with nature and adjusting to the natural and social environment. Relationships valued over achievement. Emphasis on social progress, quality of life, and the welfare of others. Defends traditions; skepticism towards change. Emphasis on economy, harmony, and modesty. Emphasis on passive, reactive, feminine approach. Preference for seniority-based intrinsic rewards.

Dominance over nature. Focus on changing or controlling ones natural and social environment. Achievement valued over relationships. Emphasis on competition in the pursuit of personal or group goals. Embraces change and unquestioned innovation. Emphasis on material possessions as symbols of achievement. Emphasis on assertive, proactive, masculine approach. Preference for performance-based extrinsic rewards.


Time and work patterns

Linear. Sequential attention to individual tasks. Single-minded approach to work, planning, and implementation. Precise concept of time; punctual. Job-centered; commitment to the job and often to the organization. Separation of work and personal life.

Non-linear. Simultaneous attention to multiple tasks. Interactive approach to work, planning, and implementation. Flexible concept of time; often late. People-centered; commitment to people and human relationships. Integration of work and personal life.

Approach to work is focused and impatient.

Approach to work is at times unfocused and patient.


Uncertainty and social control

Individual behavior should be largely regulated by rules, laws, formal policies, standard operating procedures, and social norms that are widely supported by societal members and applied uniformly to everyone. Emphasis on legal contracts and meticulous record keeping. Low tolerance for rule breaking.

While rules and laws are important, they often require flexibility in their application or enforcement by influential people (e.g., parents, peers, superiors, government officials) or unique circumstances. Emphasis on interpersonal relationships and trust; less emphasis on record keeping. Moderate tolerance for rule breaking. Decisions often based on subjective criteria (e.g., hunches, personal connections).

Decisions based largely on objective criteria (e.g., legal constraints, data, policies).


Consider: Nahed Tahler

1. From a managerial standpoint, what differences can be seen between Anna Hkansson and Nahed Tahler? 2. How did Nahed Tahler achieve what she has as a woman executive in the Middle East? 3. Based on what she has learned, how should Anna Hkansson now prepare for her meeting with Tahler? 4. How should Nahed Tahler prepare for the same meeting?
(p. 66)

What have we learned?

Comparing these two women executives from very different cultural backgrounds highlights the need to take a deeper look at cultural differences. Comparing cultures is not just either/or (e.g., individualism or collectivism); it is also both/and (e.g., strict rues with frequent exceptions). We need to look for subtleties, complexities, and contradictions that help explain how cultures really work. Take a dualities perspective.

Cultural complexities and contradictions

(p. 69)

Quandaries for management

Because cultures are shared, we would expect most members to have similar values, yet all cultures allow for non-conformists in varying degrees. How can managers discover what is allowed and what is not? All cultures contain defining elements that defy universal qualifications. How do managers discover these before it is too late? Because cultures are learned, they are also adaptive over time. How can managers sense cultural adaptations when they occur? Most cultures are amalgamations of various subcultures, each with subtle variations. To which of these cultures should a manager try to adapt to?

Consider: Cultural complexities and contradictions

1. Identify some ways in which managers can prepare for such challenges prior to arriving on site? 2. Once they have arrived and are confronted with such challenges, how might managers respond? 3. Is there a toolkit here that can prepare managers to cope with such seeming contradictions in the field?



Comparing cultures
1. Core cultural dimensions can be a good place to start to understand cultural differencesbut it is only a starting point. 2. It is important to dig deeper and work to understand the complexities and contradictions that can often influence managerial and employee behaviors.
3. It is also important to recognize the key role played by individual differences within a society or group.



Large vs. small cultural differences in business relationships

When comparing two or more cultures, recognize that:
1. Small differences between cultures can be just as problematic for managers as large ones. Like other work endeavors, the devil can indeed be in the details. 2. These small details are often overlooked by managers until damage to relationships has already occurred. 3. Large cultural differences between groups can often be overcome by focusing on small similarities.



Seeing cultural differences in neutral terms

1. Cultural differences often influence how we think and see things, suggesting that different people may have different understandings of the same situation, and may act differently as a result. 2. As groups interact with one another, however, new understanding and new behaviors can emerge. Over time, managers learn to negotiate new ways to relate to others. 3. Cultural differences within a group can often lead to better decisions. Under what circumstances and why might this be the case? 4. When managers from two or more cultures come in contact, the starting point for interaction is usually what they different groups bring to the table, but the end result will likely depend more on their interactions, the managers and their organizations, power differentials, and the exchanges that take place (cultural friction).


Avoiding cultural stereotypes

When describing another group, cultural descriptions:

2. 3.

Should provide accurate descriptions of the beliefs, values, and social norms of a group.
Should be limited to objective characteristics and avoid evaluative components (e.g., good or bad). Should be considered a first best guess about the behaviors of another group prior to developing more specific information about individual members of the group. Should recognize that they contain limited information that can mask other useful data about cultural diversity. Should be modified over time as new information about a group is discovered through observation and experience.

4. 5.


Preparing for the unexpected: Useful managerial skills

Self-awareness: Understand who you are and what you stand for. Empathy: Seek to understand the attitudes and behaviors of others. Information gathering and analysis: Seek to discover some of the less obvious cultural assumptions of others. Information integration and transformation: Work to make sense out of new information about others. Behavioral flexibility: Build a capacity to approach problems and situations in multiple ways, using different techniques. Mindfulness: Pay attention to what is happening around you,

both with yourself and others.


Application: Multicultural teams

You have been assigned to lead a new marketing team consisting of company members from three different countries. At the launch meeting, your first order of business is to insure that all team members understand their cultural differences and similarities, as well as how they can build on this to develop a cohesive and effective work team. How are you going to organize and run this meeting to accomplish your goal?

Think about it: Your views on cultural differences

1. Do you personally have any stereotypes about people from other cultures? 2. What concrete steps can you take to: Avoid cultural stereotyping? See cultural differences in neutral terms? Go beyond the superficial differences between people and understand the motivational bases of individuals and groups from different cultures?