Managing Across Culture in Doing Business Oversea Term Paper

Pages: 9 (2392 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 9  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Anthropology

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Assessing Current Models of Cultural Dimensions and Practical Implications for the Workplace

Business used to be conducted at the local marketplace -- a specific centralized area or single street within a town or village where crops and crafts were traded or bought and sold in currency transactions. No matter what it was one produced in order to obtain their livelihood, this was the area where everyone brought their goods and offered their services, and it was a given that whatever was to be found would be found here. This centralization also led to the marketplace's development as the center of village communication and gossip; people were already gathered in a centralized location out of economic necessity, so the emergence of the marketplace as the center of social activity was a natural development.

In a sense then, the marketplaces in earlier economies served as centers for cultural cohesions, and business itself promoted stronger connections between members of the same community. The common subsistence by which these towns and their constituents survived was made clear in these centralized marketplaces -- when one prospered, everyone could expect to do a little better, and suffering was often equally shared -- served to promote economic as well as social unity. Such unity often comes with a certain dose of distrust for outsiders, and though trade between communities certainly existed since before the dawn of history, it was generally the exception rather than the rule in these small village economies, and could cause culturally protectionist measures as easily as it could broaden horizons.

Things have changed a great deal in the modern era. Though intercultural trade can still spark feelings of protectionism and resentment in many, it is generally seen as a positive force in a social context as it creates a greater diversity of experiences, values, and perspectives form which one is able to view the world. As modes of travel began to improve and exploration brought more and more nations of the world in contact with each other, it was necessary for some appreciation of the diversity of different cultures to be fostered in these nations, and no time in human history has this been more prevalent than in the current ear. Communications technologies developed in the twentieth century -- specifically satellite-based communications and the Internet -- have connected people at a pace and scope unimaginable even a century ago, and international trade is now the norm rather than the exception.

Instead of the local centralized marketplaces that existed centuries and millennia ago, the developed world is in many ways a single marketplace with an abundance of diverse consumers with diverse needs, values, and desires. This diversity of consumers is matched by the diversity of different producing and procuring entities vying for attention in this increasingly large, crowded, and decentralized marketplace. This decentralization is a key aspect that modern business must recognize if they are to be profitable and successful in the long-term: business organizations must recognize the diversity of their consumers yet treat each sector of their consumers as equally important. Though many small businesses still operate on a national level, no large business can continue growth without a global perspective.

In order to achieve successful global growth, organizations must not tae on perspectives that adequately model and account for cultural differences in the marketplace, but they also need to directly incorporate this diversity into their own organizations by employing individuals that come from diverse cultural backgrounds, and by creating work environments where this diversity is fostered and allowed expression. It is only when diversity is appreciated at a fundamental and foundational level in a given organization that this organization will be able to effectively negotiate with the diversity in today's global marketplace. To this end, several models have been created with which to view cultural diversity and that can lead to better understandings, appreciations, and utilizations of diverse cultural perspectives and backgrounds. This paper will explore two such models for viewing culture from their theoretical roots to their practical applications and limitations.

Hofstede's Five Cultural Dimensions

One of the more successful and widely used models for understanding and interacting with varied cultures is the Cultural Dimensions model created by Geert Hofstede. Hofstede is a social psychologist who has been working on issues of international relations for almost half a century, and his investigations have culminated in a highly practical and easily applicable model for understanding different cultures (Mooij 2011; GH 2011). Though there are many complexities and subtleties to this model, it essentially consist of five identified scalar dimensions in which every culture has a specific place.

The first of the dimensions identified by Hofstede in this model is Power/Distance, which refers to the distribution of power in a given culture (equitable or highly hierarchical, for example) and perspectives on that power. Second is Individualism; high individualism equates to loose and less meaningful interpersonal connections, while low rankings in this area correlate to strong degrees of interpersonal connection within the culture's communities. The Masculinity dimension pegs a cultures level of gender differentiation and the degree to which culture's value traditional masculine and feminine roles, and the Uncertainty/Avoidance Index is used to describe a culture's desire for order, regulation, and definition in situations vs. their appreciation for novelty and self-discovery. The fifth and final dimension in Hofstede's model is Long-Term Orientation, the degree to which a need to serve long-term social obligations and attachment to families is felt over a need to achieve individual status and the promotion of equality amongst peers (MindTools 2011).

Seven Dimensions of Culture: Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner

A more recently developed model that actually operates along similar lines is the Seven Dimension model developed by two management consultants, Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner. In 1998, these two partners released the fruits of ten years of direct research through questionnaires and interviews in this model that they developed to describe different cultural responses to various "dilemmas" or issues (ProvenModels 2011). Their Seven Dimensions can also be understood in a simpler Four Culture model (ChangingMinds 2011).

The seven dimensions identified in this model are given as adversarial pairs, namely universalism v. particularism, individualism v communitarianism, achievement v ascription, neutral v affective, specific v diffuse, internal v external control, and present v past (Binder 2007). These correlate, respectively, to an emphasis on rules and codification vs. On relationships and adaption, the level of interest in the achievement of personal vs. team objectives, the derivation of respect from either achievement or status in a hierarchy, favoring cool and non-emotional responses vs. interacting with higher degrees of emotive responses, keeping relationships narrowly and specifically defined vs. having diffuse and multivariate relationships with colleagues, emphasis on internal functions and a resistance to change vs. emphasizing external realities and adaptation, and finally an emphasis on past traditions and respect for elders vs. An emphasis on current changes and newer (and thus younger) innovations (Binder 2007; ProvenModels 2011).

Strengths and Weaknesses

Each of these models has strengths and weaknesses, even in their very structures. Hofstede's Five Dimensions, despite having only two fewer dimensions than the later model, is far simple to understand and apply. This problem is solved by the Four Culture model that has been derived from Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner's Seven Dimension model, yet both this model and Hofstede's lack a certain degree of precision due to their brevity (ChangingMinds 2011; MindTools 2011). Both models also codify cultures from an inherently Western perspective.

Other Issues

Another improvement that could potentially be made to both of these models is the development of a dimension the focuses on how cultures react to -- and remain resistant to -- modernization. Recent research in this area has shown that the influences of modernization are not as clear cut nor as universally prevalent as has been assumed, and that a true understanding of currently observed cross-cultural differences must take into account the influences of this modernization both on the cultures studied and on the specific methods and assumptions utilized in the examination of these cultures (Inglehart & Baker 2000). In addition, as these models were developed primarily to be applied to business organizations, a dimension or dimensions that directly measured how different cultures responded to work situations and approached work ethics generally would also be major improvements to the practicality and theory of each of these models (Adler & Gunderson 2008).

Intercultural Situations

The application of these models can be seen in a simple though experiment, with a bit of background knowledge, such as a Chinese native with Confucian ideals coming to work in an American organization. With a highly communitarian native culture, this individual might have a hard time adapting to the individualism seen in American culture and organizations (ProvenModels 2011). Similarly, the immigrant's new bosses might find it difficult to deal with their new employee's high need for certainty and definition in all relationships at all times (Mooij 2011).

When the situation is reversed, and it is a manger that finds themselves trying to lead a group of individuals… [END OF PREVIEW]

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