!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Geert Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions for Nations

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Geert Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions for Nations

Now-retired professor Geert Hofstede of the Netherlands is renowned for his development of a five-dimensional model of culture at the national level. His model is based on research he conducted while employed at IBM (the first four dimensions) and on subsequent research done by Chinese scholars (the fifth dimension).

Hofstede published his results in 1980 in Culture's Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values. A second edition, titled Culture's Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations, came out in 2001.

It is important to note that Hofstede's data are averages across individuals within a particular country. He readily acknowledges that any given individual may depart significantly from the averages for his/her country.

Hofstede's five dimensions are:

Power Distance Index (PDI) — "... the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally."

Individualism (IDV) vs. Collectivism — "... the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups. On the individualist side we find societies in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him/herself and his/her immediate family. On the collectivist side, we find societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families (with uncles, aunts and grandparents) which continue protecting them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty."

Masculinity (MAS) vs. Femininity — "refers to the distribution of roles between the genders ... The IBM studies revealed that ... men's values from one country to another contain a dimension from very assertive and competitive and maximally different from women's values on the one side, to modest and caring and similar to women's values on the other. The assertive pole has been called 'masculine' and the modest, caring pole 'feminine'. The women in feminine countries have the same modest, caring values as the men; in the masculine countries they are somewhat assertive and competitive, but not as much as the men, so that these countries show a gap between men's values and women's values."

Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) — "deals with a society's tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity ... It indicates to what extent a culture programs its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations. ... Uncertainty avoiding cultures try to minimize the possibility of such situations by strict laws and rules, safety and security measures, and on the philosophical and religious level by a belief in absolute Truth ... The opposite type, uncertainty accepting cultures, are more tolerant of opinions different from what they are used to; they try to have as few rules as possible, and on the philosophical and religious level they are relativist and allow many currents to flow side by side."

Long-Term Orientation (LTO) versus Short-Term Orientation — "Values associated with Long Term Orientation are thrift and perseverance; values associated with Short Term Orientation are respect for tradition, fulfilling social obligations, and protecting one's 'face'."

If you visit www.geert-hofstede.com, you can review graphs of how various countries stack up on Hofstede's dimensions, some assessed using the four-dimensional model, others using the five-dimensional model.

The graph directly below shows the overall average levels, on a scale of 0-100, for the five-dimensional model. Then, as examples of the national readings, I've reproduced the graphs for China and the USA, two countries increasingly involved in bilateral dealings, both commercial and governmental.

World Average for Hofstede's Dimensions

Levels of Hofstede's Dimensions for China

Levels of Hofstede's Dimensions for the USA


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