A Tool That Maps Out Cultural Differences – Harvard Business Review



Interesting approach to understanding cross-cultural differences from a management perspective. Canada does not figure but the graphs are interesting. Risk of stereotyping, of course, but it may help people reflect on their styles and the impact on others:

Erin Meyer, an American (from Minnesota) in Paris who coaches executives in managing cross-cultural career moves and teaches at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, has a theory about these malentendus. The problem, she argues, is that most people tend to emphasize just one or two, at most three, dimensions of cultural difference when it comes to parsing and predicting foreigners’ behavior.

But cultures differ along many more than three dimensions, so the more dimensions you consider, the less likely you are to trip up on a cultural paradox — you’ll be able to tell that incoming French manager to tone down critiques of his American subordinates before he upsets them.

The trouble, of course, is that it’s cognitively difficult for us to keep more than three dimensions of comparison in our head at once. What’s more, we tend to lose sight of the fact that relative, not absolute differences, are what matters. Most cultures would find the Brazilians to be very relaxed about punctuality, for instance, but Brazilians themselves tend to struggle to adapt to Indians’ even more casual notions of time.

A Tool That Maps Out Cultural Differences – David Champion – Harvard Business Review.