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Culture and Values
Frameworks Used to Characterize Cultures
Class Outline
• Mini debate on the implications of
cultural values in different economies
• Mini-lecture on Frameworks for
assessing dimensions of culture
Ronen & Shenkar
What is culture?
Umbrella term often used for differences in:
• etiquette (e.g. greetings)
• individual customs (e.g. routines for sleeping, bathing)
• ways of thinking
Definition: the way people understand their
world and make sense of it, a shared system of meanings.
• Culture is learned and imprinted (it is a collective
phenomenon). Cultural programming deals with both values
and practices.
• There are different layers of cultural programming: national
culture, professional culture, corporate culture.
• Let it be resolved that distinct
Chinese values explain the
extraordinary growth rates of
Culture is Difficult to Study
 Ethnic, religious, class, age and other
sources of heterogeneity
 Individual variation within groups
 Danger of ethnocentric stereotypes
 Intra-cultural vs. cross-cultural behaviour
 Evolution as circumstances change
“Measuring” Culture
 Cultural differences can be inferred from data
about a collectivity of people:
 Direct measurement through asking well designed
questions about people’s values or beliefs.
 Data “clustering” methods
 Matched samples can then be compared to
discover similarities and differences.
 At the individual level we speak of cultural
attitudes and orientations (but these may not
be representative of one’s culture).
Cultural Classifications
 Hofstede
 Bond
 Trompenaars
By and large, these classifications show
similar dimensions and classify countries in
the same clusters.
 Ronen and Shenkar – “Country Clusters”
based on multiple studies
 A study of IBM employees in 50 countries.
Studying values (“the broad tendencies to
prefer certain states over others”
 Four dimensions
 power distance
 uncertainty avoidance
 individualism/collectivism
 femininity/masculinity
Power Distance
• The extent to which less powerful members
of institutions and organizations accept that
power is distributed unequally.
• A bottom-up view of power differences
• Large: Mexico, South Korea, India
• Small: U.S.
Uncertainty Avoidance
• The extent to which members are
intolerant of ambiguity and rely on
formal rules
• A proxy for risk propensity and tolerance
• High (i.e. risk averse): Japan, Greece
• Low (i.e. risk taking): U.S., Hong-Kong
• The tendency of people to look after themselves
and their immediate family versus belonging to
groups or collectives and looking after each other
in exchange for loyalty
• There is an association between collectivism
and wealth per capita
• High individualism: U.S.
• High collectivism: China, Brazil, Venezuela
Applications of PD & UA
• Small PD, Weak UA
• Examples: USA, UK
• Less formal rules, less “unnecessary layers of hierarchy”.
Control and coordination through mutual adjustment of people
through informal coordination
• Small PD, Strong UA
• Examples: Israel, Austria, Germany
• Clearly defined rules and procedures without imposing strong
• Large PD, Strong UA
• Examples: Japan, Korea, Portugal, Mexico
• Pyramids, clear authority lines
• Large Power Distance, Weak UA
• Examples: Singapore, Hong Kong
• Family structure. Allocation of duties, strong patriarch
• Values concerning work goals and
assertiveness (masculinity) as opposed
to personal goals (getting along, having
friendly atmosphere) and nurturance
• A proxy for assertiveness
• High: Brazil, Chile, Sweden
• Low: Japan, Mexico
Bond: The Chinese Connection
• Confucian Dynamism
ordering relationship by status and observing this order
having a sense of shame (sensitivity to social contacts)
Less important:
personal steadiness and stability
protecting your face
respect for tradition
reciprocation of greetings, favors and gifts.
• Individualism versus collectivism
• Universalism versus particularism
• Neutral versus affective relationships
• Specific versus diffuse relationships
• Achievement versus ascription
• Universalism is the belief that ideas and
practices can be applied everywhere
without modification.
• Universalistic: Germany, U.K.
• Particularism is the belief that
circumstances dictate how ideas and
practices should be applied.
• Particularistic: China, Hong-Kong, Venezuela
Neutral vs. Affective
• A neutral culture is one where emotions
are held in check (repressed)
• Neutral: Japan, U.K.
• An affective country is one in which
emotions are openly and naturally
• Affective: Mexico, Netherlands, Switzerland
Specific Vs. Diffuse
• Public versus private spaces
• In specific cultures people tend to have a larger public
area and small private area. They prefer to keep private
life separate.
• Highly mobile; Separate work and private life
• Direct, open
• “To the point” – may appear abrasive
• In diffuse cultures the private space is usually larger
while the public area is smaller and more guarded.
People come across as cool initially the private space is
more accessible.
• Low mobility; Work and private life closely linked
• Indirect, close and introvert
• Flexibility is very important
Achievement vs. Ascription
• Achievement: people are accorded
status based on how well they perform
their functions.
• Achievement: U.K., Argentina
• An ascription culture in one in which
status is attributed based on who or
what a person is.
• Ascription: China
Questions for Discussion
• What are the similarities and differences
between the dimensions of uncertainty
avoidance and universalism/particularism?
• What are the similarities and differences
between masculinity/feminity and
• What are the similarities and differences
between power distance and
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