on 20 June 2001
Hofstede identifies 5 dimensions upon which cultures differ - from 1. individual/collective programming 2. relation to authority 3. risk avoidance 4. masculine/feminine societies and 5. short/long term orientation. His research spanned thousands of surveys within the same company IBM to establish the key differences in the way people think. His work marked a breakthrough in this field as he produced tables, maps and clusters to show cultures in relation to each other. Illustrated with historical and real life examples, this still is the starting point into cross-cultural behaviour.
on 12 August 2005
Geert Hofstede is Emeritus Professor at Maastricht University in The Netherlands. He was Professor of Organisational Anthropology and International Management at the University of Limburg (which was later re-named Maastricht University). He is the founder and first director of the Institute for Research on Intercultural Cooperation (IRIC), where a lot of the research used in this book comes from. This paperback version was published 3 years after the hardcover and includes some updated references to political events. This book is largely an extension to Hofstede's 1980-book 'Culture's Consequences'. The book consists of 4 parts.
Part I - Introduction, consists of one chapter, and lays the foundation for the remainder of the book by introducing the meaning of 'culture' and a small vocabulary of essential terms. He also discusses the objective of the book: "to help in dealing with the differences in thinking, feeling, and acting of people around the globe. It will show that although the variety in people's minds is enormous, there is a structure in this variety which can serve as a basis for mutual understanding." With reference to the definition of culture, we need to understand the book's subtitle first. 'Software of the mind' is patterns of thinking, feeling and acting (which were learned throughout a lifetime). Hofstede's definition of culture is "the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another." It is important to note that he believes that culture is learned and not inherited. He continues with a brief discussion on the 3 levels in human mental programming: 1. Human nature (universal; inherited); 2. Culture (specific to group/category; learned); and 3. Personality (specific to individual; learned and inherited).
Part II - National Cultures - is the largest section of this book with 6 chapters and deals with differences among cultures at national levels. Chapter 2-to-5 describe the four dimensions empirically found in research across more than 50 countries: (1) to wit power distance; (2) collectivism versus individualism; (3) femininity versus masculinity; and (4) uncertainty avoidance. Each of these 4 chapters follows the same structure: description of dimension, the scores of the various countries, the consequences of the dimension for family life, school, workplace, organisation, state, and the development of ideas. Chapter 6 looks at the consequences of the national culture differences in the way people in a country organize themselves, combining the dimensions from the previous chapters. The next chapter introduces a fifth cross-national dimension, which is long-term versus short-term orientation. This reveals deep differences between Eastern and Western thinking.
Part III deals with differences in organisational culture and consists of only 1 chapter in which the author describes the insights collected in IRIC's research project across 20 organisational units in Denmark and the Netherlands between 1985-1987.
Part IV - Implications - consists of 2 chapters and discusses the practical implications of the culture differences and similarities. The first chapter of this part discusses what happens when people from different cultures meet. It discusses phenomena, such as culture shock, ethnocentrism, stereotyping, differences in language and in humour. It also discusses the development of intercultural communication skills. The final chapter of the book summarizes the message of the book and translates it into suggestions for parents, managers and the media. There is also a speculation on future political developments, based on the cultural processes.
Yes, this is a monumental book on 'software of the mind'. I believe that this book is a fantastic piece of work on this subject, based on strong research, and is probably the starting point for anybody interested in this subject. I must warn people that the book is not a simple, fast read, since the information is very intense and the wide range of information covered. However, the writing style is good and there are plenty of tables, diagrams, figures to make the reading somewhat 'easier'. Highly recommended to all people interested in this subject, from parents through to managers. (Where is the 6-star button?)
I was first introduced to Cultures and Organisations in the mid 90s, and since then it has been an invaluable reference guide when working with or managing international teams to avoid the feelings of anger, betrayal or bewilderment that come from cultural mismatches. GH is not, to be honest, a stunningly good writer (so only 4 stars) but the book is an essential refernce guide for managers.
on 27 May 2007
I have found this book very useful for new change consultants who are venturing out into a global environment, this at least prepares people to think about cultural norms and the way in which certain societies generally view the world, get along with each other and make decisions.. Be cautioned this is not an approach to stereotype cultures, rather to provide the student with an understanding of the normal cultural drivers.
It is not a cookbook of how-to's. It a research report into how cultural differences underlay everything you want to accomplish.
While the book is titled Cultures and Organisations, it is really about ethnic cultures, not corporate cultures.
If you are working in a multi cultural or international environment then this is a must. Success in an international environment only occurs when you possess cultural sensitivity. This book is a fantastic introduction into the world of international cultures
on 31 August 2006
I rarely write reviews of books on Amazon, this one however has made me want to recommend it.
The authors have managed to sum up some key differences between cultures, describe them clearly and advise on how to handle them based upon these 'dimensions' such as the extent to which a culture is individualist or collectivist.
In my travels I have picked up a lot of the data presented here through personal experience, but I could not present it back clearly into 'when in Rome do as the Romans do' type advice.
This book does. Simply and clearly, as soon as you've got past the data and the language style, there are some gems to be found.
The second best in this topic area (following in first place Trompenaars work 'Riding the Waves').
on 22 January 2004
This book was recommended to us in a cultural awareness course.
Interestingly, the subject has been most valuable to me in my
multi-country technical projects! The KEY usefulness of
this book is that it arrives at a numerical 'score' for various
components of 'culture'. It doesn't say "Americans are more
individualistic" as an opinion. Rather, "Americans are more
individualistic because they score X in the Individual VS
Collective Index" Isn't that brilliant?? The country profiles
are therefore objective, based on scientific, numerical method.
Not based on opinion, like most other books on the topic of 'Culture'. Great stuff.
on 7 April 1999
This is a slow read, but take heart, read it all and also read "Corporate Culture and Performance" by Kotter and Haskett. The tools for making your organization run smoother, more efficiently and be more fun to work in are documented here. It is not a cookbook of how-to's. It is the research report into how cultural differences underlay everything you want to accomplish. If you are in the international arena or have a diverse workforce you absolutely need to read this book.
Knowing the differences in cultures and how to use them to everyone advantage is critical to your company's success. Ignore this one at your own peril, because at least one of your competitors is starting to implement the knowledge already. We started using the information by the time I got through the second chapter. Our Executive Coaching business is highly successful in changing corporate culture to produce the maximum benefits and returns with the resources available to top management because we factor in these differences. This book has become an indispensable reference for several of our programs.