Cultural Dimensions

Renown sociologist and author, Geert Hofstede studies the interactions of cultures and organizations and has been able to compare these different cultural dimensions from country to country. Hofstede argues that our so-called human instinct is not actually universal at all, but it differs from country to country and culture to culture. He argues that if we have a clear understanding of these different dimensions, as he calls them, we are able to be more effective when conducting business or interactions with people from different cultures.

Hofstede has broken down his study of these culture into five different dimensions:
  • Small vs. large power distance -This dimension measures how much the less powerful members of institutions and organizations expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. Small vs. Large Power Distance does not measure or attempt to measure a culture's objective, "real" power distribution, but rather the way people perceive power differences.
  • Individualism vs. collectivism - This dimension measures how much members of the culture define themselves apart from their group memberships.
  • Masculinity vs. femininity - This dimension measures the value placed on traditionally male or female values (as understood in most Western cultures. Another reading of the same dimension holds that in 'Masculine' cultures, the differences between gender roles are more dramatic and less fluid than in 'Feminine' cultures.
  • Weak vs. strong uncertainty avoidance - This dimension measures how much members of a society are anxious about the unknown, and as a consequence, attempt to cope with anxiety by minimizing uncertainty.
  • Long vs. short term orientation - This dimension describes a society's "time horizon," or the importance attached to the future versus the past and present.
Through these five dimensions, Hofstede was able to 'quantifiably' study different cultural dimensions and can rank them accordingly. However, this process has gained negative feedback as it could be thought to promote stereotypes and generalize millions of people into a mold that they might not fit into. Hofstede publishes on his website his findings and here they are from my home country, the United States.

  • The Power Distance Dimension- The USA has a score of 40, which is surprisingly low compared to the rest of the world. The world average is 55, this indicates that there is a greater equality between social levels, families and even within government. Also indicates interaction between all levels which in turn allows for a more stable social environment.
  • The Individualism Dimension- The USA has the highest individualism index ranking in the world. With a score of 91, the USA is one of only 7 countries that has individualism as its highest ranking factor. This reveals a society of people that rely solely on ones' self and looks out only for the individual and one's family.
  • Masculinity Dimension- The second highest ranking dimension for the USA is the Masculinity dimension. Scoring a 62, when the world average is a 50, shows that the differences between gender roles is much higher in the States than anywhere else in the world. This produces a female population that is more aggressive, assertive and competitive, which means that females are moving more towards a masculine role and away from the ever there female roles.
  • Uncertainty Avoidance Dimension- The USA has a ranking of 46, with the world average reading at a 64. This points to a society that has fewer rules and does not try to limit the outcomes as much as other cultures. This allows for tolerance in belief systems, ideas and individualism, as well.
  • Long Term Orientation- With the lowest ranking for the USA at a 29, this shows the societal belief in meeting obligations and apprehension for cultural traditions.
This a very interesting way of looking at American culture because while some of the findings, might not shock, I find some to be quite curious. America is either on one end of the extreme for all the of rankings. With high individualism and masculine dimension rankings, one can see this through out society. As a child I remember the "you can be anything you want to be," rhetoric being instilled in me on a daily basis. This is also the same for being pushed as a woman to never let my sex stop me from achieving what I wanted. As a product of this society, I would say that these rankings are very accurate in my individual case and living now in London has changed my cultural perspective, as England has different cultural findings as well.

Once we know the different cultural aspects of a county, it serves as sound logic that using these different dimensions to speak to the people of these countries. This would serve all us, PRs well when planning different PR strategies, whether they be on a global or national scale.

No comments:

Post a Comment