Cross Cultural Theories

The globalisation of world business in the last 5 decades has heralded in an era when cultural differences have become vitally important to leaders, managers and executives in the world’s international and multinational companies.

The complexities of merging corporate cultures, issues of leadership, planning, decision-making, recruitment and task assignment are all compromised by the nation-traits of the people involved. What allowances must be made when outlining organisational culture? Where can one look for guidelines?

One of the great dilemmas in analysing a person’s cultural profile and deciding where to fit him or her into an existing organisation is how to choose cultural dimensions to create an understandable assessment.

Several dozen cross-cultural experts have proposed such dimensions. None has yet succeeded in capturing the whole field. The best-known models are:

Edward Hall, who classified groups as mono-chronic or poly-chronic, high or low context and past- or future-oriented.

Kluckholn saw 5 dimensions – attitude to problems, time, Nature, nature of man, form of activity and reaction to compatriots.

Hofstede’s 4-D model looked at power distance, collectivism vs. individualism, femininity vs. masculinity and uncertainty avoidance. Later he added long-term vs. short-term orientation.

Trompenaars’ dimensions came out as universalist vs. particularist, individualist vs. collectivist, specific vs. diffuse, achievement-oriented vs. ascriptive and neutral vs. emotional or affective.

The Lewis Model is the latest to gain world-wide recognition, being developed in the 1990s and articulated in Richard Lewis’s blockbuster, When Cultures Collide (1996), which won the US Book of the Month Award in 1997. Lewis, after visiting 135 countries and working in more than 20 of them, came to the conclusion that humans can be divided into 3 clear categories, based not on nationality or religion but on BEHAVIOUR. He named his typologies Linear-active, Multi-active and Reactive.

Lewis considered that previous cross-culturalists, in accumulating the multiplicity of dimensions listed in the preceding paragraph, ran the risk of creating confusion for those who sought clarity and succinctness. Moreover, he pointed out that the experts’ preoccupation with north/south, mono-chronic/poly-chronic dichotomies, had caused them to overlook or ignore the powerful Asian mindset (comprising, in fact, half of humanity). He named this behavioural category Reactive, thereby creating a model that is essentially tripartite and cites the following characteristics:


6 characteristics.jpg

The Linear-active group is easily identified. It comprises: the English-speaking world – North America, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, and Northern Europe, including Scandinavia and Germanic countries.

The Reactive group is located in all major countries in Asia, except the Indian sub-continent, which is hybrid.

The Multi-actives are more scattered: Southern Europe, Mediterranean countries, South America, sub-Saharan Africa, Arab and other cultures in the Middle East, India and Pakistan and most of the Slavs. Though these cultures are wildly diverse, geographically and in their religions, beliefs and values, they can be categorised as a group, as behaviourally they follow the same pattern with the following traits and commonalities: emotion, talkativeness, rhetoric, drama, eloquence, persuasion, expressive body language, importance of religion or creed, primacy of family bonds, low trust societies, unpunctuality, variable work ethic, volatility, inadequate planning, capacity for compassion, collectivism, relationship-orientation, situational truth, dislike of officialdom, tactility, sociability, nepotism, excitability, changeability, sense of history, unease with strict discipline

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