Saturday, March 14, 2009

Defining Cultures: Hofsteede

This post continues on from {wgaw blog archive: 1o/o3 and o2/o4}

Hofsteede theorized people from one culture can be compared with people from another culture using just five parameters and stated it was, "the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another"

1. Individual or Group; High or Low Collectivist

“Do I act on our own for my benefit, or do we act as a group for all our benefits?”

In highly collectivist cultures the group always comes before the individual and people think of themselves as being part of a, “we” rather than an, “I”. The continuation of a relationship is essential, along with the politeness and hospitality needed to maintain integrity and honour.

In low collectivist cultures the individual comes before the group and sometimes there isn’t a group. In many cases the individual will think of themselves as “I”.

General thought ~with which I would agree~ states Arabs are a highly collectivist culture and as such,
“The power of relationships can never be underestimated and success is dependent on connections which are inherited or acquired through hard work.”

2. Male or Female/  Patriarchal or Matriarchal / Feminine or Masculine

Hofsteede suggests male societies define very specific roles for men and women, whereas female societies mix the roles and at times the roles are ambiguous.  Values in masculine societies usually involve competition and the winning or loosing, whereas in the more ‘feminine’ cultures the values of importance involve harmony and nurturing.

From my experience Arabs are a patriarchal society. Personal recollections include;
“I feel much better now I’m in charge again.”
“The louder I shout, the more they shut up and listen to me.”

3. Power Distance;  
Vertical or Horizontal, Low or High

To define if your culture has high or low power distance you can ask, “How is power shared in this community; vertically or horizontally?” "How much distance is there between you and the decision makers?" and then, "What possibility is there of you meeting with them and influencing their decisions?" With a vertical power distance there is a small ruling elite, a large underclass and a very small middle class.

Key words in a high power distant culture include: favoritism, bureaucracy, inequality and hierarchy.
With horizontal power distances the triangle becomes a three way rectangle:

1. Power distance - 2. Ruling Elite - 3. Majority of Population
and the power distances are far smaller. Key words here include teams, sharing

4. Risk Avoidance: Low or High Uncertainty Tolerance/Avoidance

I belive the wording for this aspect of culture sometimes makes it difficult to comprehend and usually the term avoidance is used. However the term ‘low uncertainty avoidance’ is a double negative, and means you like excitement and new things. I’ve used the term ‘tolerance’ to avoid the confusion.

How do you (as a group or individual) feel/ think/ act when dealing with an abnormal or a difficult to understand situation?  If you like new things and experiences then its likely you have a high uncertainty tolerance. If you prefer things to remain the same then it's very likely you'll have a low uncertainty tolerance.

Cultures with a high uncertainty tolerance are comfortable with events and people that are unpredictable. They are comfortable with risk taking and nonconformist behavior. Cultures with low uncertainty tolerance often have formal and informal systems to control their environments and have strict behavioral norms.

5. Time;  Long or Short Term Orientation (LTO)

High LTO indicates respect for tradition – change is slow

Low LTO indicates changes are not hindered by long-term traditions

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