I hope you enjoyed the series of posts about one of the approaches to identifying dimensions of cultures, created by Erin Meyer. This post is supposed to provide a brief summary of the dimensions so that you have them in one place as well as encourage you to explore the dimensions in more detail.
Why should you care?
Firstly, let’s remind ourselves why you should at all care about this post series. Why do I care so much about making people aware of the dimensions? Why do they matter? Why having such knowledge is beneficial to you? In my mind, discussion about cultural dimensions, stereotypes and cultural differences provide a very good start to understanding how various cultures function. They provide a framework that allows you to put your initial thoughts in order, make sense out of them and be able to discuss the topic with other people using the same terminology. Of course just one theory is never exhaustive and should not be treated as one and only truth. But you gotta start somewhere to be able to slowly notice how much you still don’t know and identify the areas where you still need to explore some more.
You can read more about my approach to using cultural dimensions theories in the two below posts:
What are the dimensions?
Meyer identified a couple of scales, with two dimensions each, thanks to which you can create quite a comprehensive view on what to expect when interacting with people from a given culture. The fact that one country is in a certain place on the scale does not mean anything until it is compared with another culture. It’s all relative. The position of one culture on any of the scales should always be treated in relation to the culture you compare it with. You can find examples of what this means in specific articles dedicated to each scale. I also shared some examples that appeared in the book as well as personal ones deriving from my international experiences.
The scales described by Meyer include:
-> Useful to consider when making assumptions on the basis of what other people say, understanding that sometimes you need to read the air to get to the bottom of the message
-> Useful to consider when you work in an international team where feedback is a valuable development tool. It is good to establish what is the best way to give feedback that increases the chances of actually taking it on board.
-> Useful to consider when managing an international team (or being managed), especially in terms of what is considered as an authority in a given culture and what kinds of behaviour gain respect. The goal as with everything else is to get the best out of the team you’re working with!
-> Useful to consider when either managing a diverse team or working with a client. It’s good to understand how decisions are made in a culture you’re working with to avoid misunderstandings and be able to pick a good time to present your input into the decision-making process.
-> Useful to know how trust is based and considered in various cultures, in many places trust means something more than just trusting someone will get their work done.
-> Definitely consider it together with the deciding scale to get the full picture of the discussions that might come up during brainstorming meetings and how they might be managed to give everyone the same chance for having an input.
-> Easy to understand given the famous stereotypes about certain cultures. Relatively easy to get used to as well when you have that understanding.
-> Useful to consider especially if your work involves presenting and creating an impact. What persuades people in one culture might not work on the other side of the ocean
The above suggestions are of course slightly generalised to facilitate broad understanding of the theory in place, but do have a look at all the above articles to learn some more about various approaches that can be met around the world.
Meyer’s theory is not the only one out there, but certainly the one that is helpful in business as it was researched and developed in a business environment. Let me know if you’d like to learn more about some other approaches or theories that attempt to classify cultures and provide frameworks for discussions. Happy to start a new cycle to share that knowledge!
Is there any particular issue that you find difficult to deal with when working with a culture different from the one you were brought up in? What tools or approaches helped you go past the differences and embrace the similarities when working across cultures?