Thursday, November 3, 2016

Book recommendation : The Culture Map

Yesterday I completed reading of an interesting book which is called ‘The Culture Map’, written by Erin Meyer. She is a Professor at INSEAD Business School. This book is an easy guide to understand different cultures especially in business life. Specific differences are mentioned in how people from different cultures communicate and consider ideas at work.

It gives a lot of good insights with examples from the social life as well. I think these real life examples from Erin’s personal life and her clients made this book more attractive and easier to understand. I appreciate the openness in examples about culture clashes from different views. 

There are many interesting points in the book. I want to share these 2 areas with you ; Trusting scale and 8 dimensions of cultures.

Let's look at them quickly here :

  •  You can see the Trusting scale below. In China, Saudi Arabia or Brazil, for example, trust is established from personal relationships built over time between people. As Meyer describes it: “I’ve seen who you are at a deep level, I’ve shared personal time with you, I know others well who trust you, I trust you.” On the other extreme are the US, Denmark and the Netherlands where trust is established from working together on business activities. “You do good work consistently, you are reliable, I enjoy working with you, I trust you."

  • She also mentioned that a culture can be defined along 8 dimensions based on her extensive research:
- Communicating: explicit vs. implicit
Americans are the most explicit or low-context culture there is (low-context meaning their conversation assumes relatively little intuitive understanding).Japan and other East Asian countries represent the other extreme.

- Evaluating: direct negative feedback vs. indirect negative feedback
Israelis, Russians, and Dutch are among the most direct when it comes to negative feedback. Japanese, Indonesian are among the most indirect.

- Persuading: deductive vs. inductive
French and Italians, tend toward deductive arguments, focusing on theories and complex concepts before presenting a fact, statement, or opinion. Canada, US tend toward inductive arguments, starting with focusing first on practical application before moving to theory.

- Leading: egalitarian vs. hierarchical
Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden are the most egalitarian; Japan, Korea and Nigeria are the most hierarchical.

- Deciding: consensual vs. top down
While Japan has a very hierarchical leadership system, it has a very consensual decision-making system, India, Russia and China has more top down approach in deciding.

- Trusting: task vs. relationship
People do not worry so much to trust each other in US, Denmark, Netherlands, German because they trust their legal system. In others, including many emerging markets like Saudi Arabia, India, China, people relationships are much more important.

- Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoid confrontation
Indonesia, Japan and Thailand are some of countries among the ones which avoid confrontation. On the other hand, Israel, France and Germany are confrontational cultures.

- Scheduling: structured vs. flexible
Germans and Swiss have linear time, meaning that they are very precise in terms of scheduling; Western Europeans and Latin Americans tend to be more flexible; Africa, the Middle East, and India are extremely flexible.

After reading this book I understood better the background of cultural differences and clashes that I personally experienced in my business and social life. I highly recommend this book for every person to read.


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