Global Management Tips: Identifying Cultural Patterns

The shared assumptions, values, and beliefs of a group form a cultural pattern. Teach yourself how the pattern fits together – its underlying logic – so that you can adapt to new environments quickly and effectively in your role as a global manager.

Cultural Complexity
Although each culture is unique and complex, being made up of internal tensions, contradictions, and variations, it is possible to identify three main cultural “types” – autonomy, consensus, and status. Cultural types are very broad generalizations and should be treated with caution. They are useful guides, but they must be open to modification: if they are used to form stereotypes, they become destructive. Avoid allowing stereotypes to block your sensitivity to, and understanding of, individual exceptions.

Recognizing Autonomy Cultures
Members of autonomy cultures seek individuality and independence. A person in this type of culture is expected to determine his or her own identity, and dependence on other individuals or institutions is seen as a weakness. Conformity is expected only to the degree that it allows the society to function with some cohesion. Areas associated with this cultural type include Australia and New Zealand, Canada and the United States, and many parts of northern and western Europe.

Points to Remember
1. In reality, cultures are a unique mix of cultural types, although one type will tend to be dominant.
2. Study and careful observation are needed to help you understand a culture.
3. The internet is a useful resource for cultural information.
4. The more time you spend in a different culture, the more complex it will appear.

Understanding Consensus Cultures
Members of consensus cultures are driven by the need for harmony, at least on the surface. The individual’s personal identity is closely bound to that of a larger group, which maintains its identity by encouraging homogeneity and conformity. Great importance is placed on stability within the group. Becoming alienated from it can be very traumatic for the individual. Many parts of Asia have consensus-type cultures, including Japan, and, to a lesser extent, China and Korea.

Identifying Status Cultures
Honour and respect, both for the individual and the group, drive members of status cultures. In this type of culture, an individual’s identity is closely connected to that of the group, which can be an extended family, class, clan, or tribe. The shared heritage of group members is important: group survival and pride are of supreme value. Loyalty to strong leaders who are representative of the group is essential. Areas associated with status-type cultures include southern Europe, South America, Africa, and the Middle East.

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