From notions of time and hierarchy to patterns of thinking and communicating, all human endeavours are influenced by culture.
Each one of us carries a specific pattern of thinking, feeling and acting that we develop through our life experiences. This pattern refers to all aspects of our everyday life: from the way we relate to authority and hierarchy, to our use of time, the way we eat, greet or deal with our feelings. Differences in behaviour derived from such patterns, which we summarily define as ‘culture’, often lead to misunderstandings and conflict in our working or social interactions.
While nationality is seen as the main source of cultural difference, religion, social background, generational level or gender are equally important cultural definers. To these, we need to add the corporate or professional cultures in which working people are socialised with important implications for the work of teams, relationships with clients or society and overall performance.
The new intercultural business environment can be particularly challenging for organisations and individuals as it highlights differences, often leading to conflict and frustration in the workplace, with potentially serious implications for institutional performance. At the same time, it offers countless possibilities for learning, growth and innovative forms of leadership. The incorporation of the cultural perspective into professional development enables leaders and their teams to go beyond the limitations of their existing cultural values and assumptions, utilise fully their existing potential and develop imaginative and lasting solutions.
- Hofstede, Geert; Hofstede, Gert Jan: Cultures and Organizations, Software of the Mind, McGraw-Hill, 2005
- Rosinski, Philippe: Coaching across Cultures, Nicholas Brealey, 2003
- Lewis, Richard D: When Cultures Collide, Leading across Cultures, Nicholas Brealey, 2005
- Hofstede, Gert Jan; Pedersen, Paul B and Hofstede, Geert: Exploring Culture, Intercultural Press, 2002
For an overview of how cultural differences affect the life and work of organisations, visit: www.geert-hofstede.com.