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4.7 out of 5 stars15
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on 26 February 2005
Peppering the book with anecdotes, Trompenaars and Hampden Turner take a logical, cogent and clear approach to how people are different when they conduct business.
This goes far beyond simple stereotypes of "Northern Europeans are colder than Southern Europeans" and attempts to explain why these differences come about. They then suggest alternate approaches to interactions between different cultures.
The book is general in approach and teaches skills that are relevant globally. This means that if you're after specifics of (say) how rural Korean cultures interact with the Japanese, you'll find the book a bit thin!
However: I wish I'd had this book when I started working in a European team.
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I knew I'd like this book when I read the first paragraph - "It is our belief that you can never understand other cultures. Those who are married know that it is impossible ever completely to understand even people of your own culture". And that, pretty much, is the theme of the book. That said, the authors use seven dimensions of culture to help us understand how and why people might think in different ways. This I found enlightening and even entertaining, though spending nearly 150 pages examining these dimensions is perhaps overcooking it a little. The book certainly does give you a different perspective, a new way of thinking about diversity, but it doesn't provide any easy answers. There are no miracle formulae or quick fixes to managing diversity. The conclusion is more to be open, and stay in a positive frame of mind. Take time to consider different people's needs and priorities from different angles. Inspirational stuff, if a little stodgy in parts.
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on 24 May 2009
Most of the management thinking that has emerged in the last three decades was conceived in the United States and Western Europe. Therefore, a lot of the "management speak" have a distinct Western tint to them. Most of us assume implicitly that what works in the United States must work in Southern Europe or in Japan. However, as many employees of multinational companies can attest, many management initiatives, which were conceived in good faith at the company headquarters in London or New York fail abysmally on the ground in Italy or Nigeria. Why does this happen? Could it be that the Nigerians and Italians are simply perverse and pre-capitalist in their thinking? Why can't they simply get how a modern multinational should be run?

Thank goodness, the answers are not so simple. Messrs Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner explain eloquently in this wonderful book that all cultures differ in their approach to solving the following three problems:

- Relationships with people;
- Attitudes to time; and
- Attitudes to the environment.

There is an inherent tension in the way different cultures solve these problems. The authors use over 30,000 interviews from different professionals from over 50 countries to show how different nationalities resolve the following seven cultural dilemmas.

- Making rules and discovering expectations. Does the culture value universal or particular rules of conduct?
- Constructing and deconstructing. Are phenomena analysed into their parts or are the phenomena integrated and taken as a whole?
- Management of communities of individuals. Does the culture value the rights of the individual over and above those of the group?
- Internalising the outside world. Which are the more important guides to actions; our inner directed judgments or the demands of the outside world?
- Choosing among achievers. How does the national culture assign status? By ascription or achievement?
- Conception of time. Does the culture perceive time as sequential and linear or as synchronous and cyclical?

Without rehashing the minutiae of their experimental method, I found some of the insight fascinating. For example, the authors confirm that status in France is ascribed based on graduation from any of the elitist engineering schools. They also confirmed that "French managers...were more emphatic about "knowing all the answers" than managers from other cultures. This observation rings true with my experience working for a French company.

Most importantly, the authors conclude that the resolutions of the seven dilemmas are not necessarily irreconcilable. As the economies of communitarian cultures like India, Japan and Brazil become more developed, their organisational models will challenge the assumptions of the Weberian, individualistic "Protestant" model that has dominated the literature since the systematic study of management began. The authors remind us that various cultures resolve the same cultural dilemmas in the process of creating wealth as we do. It is a timely message and one that no international-oriented manager can ignore. The book deserves my 4 stars
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on 21 September 1998
Having read a number of books on intercultural management, I can only say that in my opinion, "Riding the Waves of Culture" is by far the best book on this subject. Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner present the results of their research on cultural differences in a most engaging way. Their book is a quick read that is full of wonderful anecdotes about cross-cultural business dilemmas. The stories are presented in a way that demonstrates great awareness of and respect for very diverse approaches to business. The authors also offer a methodology for reconciling value differences that incorporates the best of both worlds.
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on 29 January 2002
Theoretically sound, at the same time the book is written beautifully, and I successfully used it as the basis for a multicultural teambulding programme in Amsterdam, with eight countries and six languages represented.
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on 15 October 2001
I first read this book three years ago and have continued to recomend it to friends and collegues. Having worked internationally for 15 years I often had people experiences but didn't understand the why. This book helps you understand the different cultural dimensions, and where different cultures fit. I now understand some of the why.
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on 20 April 2009
This is a shorter, and more condensed version of the authors' earlier book 'Building Cross Cultural Competence'. In this book, the authors' target managers and business people who are looking to understand cultural differences and how to deal with them in a variety of circumstances and situations. Each chapter begins with am introduction to one of the dimensions, a discussion of how the differences manifest themselves and concludes with 'tips' on how to deal, and how to do business, with the different culture explored in that chapter.

The authors use the same six dimensions of culture introduced in their earlier work (universalism vs. particularism; individualism vs communitarism; specificity vs. diffusion; achieved status vs. ascribed status; inner direction vs. outer direction; and sequential time vs. synchronous time), but they present these dimensions in a much more accessible and simple manner with more emphasis on what each dimension actually means for business people and how it affects business-related situations.

This book has become the reference for business people and managers in the area of culture. Simple and very well written without losing credibility; this is a book that will enlighten and guide any manager in dealing with people from other cultures. While in some ways it is a 'western-centric' book (targeted to Western - especially US - managers), it remains very useful for managers from other cultures since the authors have attempted to keep the examples and discussion culturally neutral.
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on 17 April 2009
This is a shorter, and more condensed version of the authors' earlier book Building Cross-cultural Competence: How to Create Wealth from Conflicting Values. In this book, the authors' target managers and business people who are looking to understand cultural differences and how to deal with them in a variety of circumstances and situations. Each chapter begins with am introduction to one of the dimensions, a discussion of how the differences manifest themselves and concludes with 'tips' on how to deal, and how to do business, with the different culture explored in that chapter.

The authors use the same six dimensions of culture introduced in their earlier work (universalism vs. particularism; individualism vs communitarism; specificity vs. diffusion; achieved status vs. ascribed status; inner direction vs. outer direction; and sequential time vs. synchronous time), but they present these dimensions in a much more accessible and simple manner with more emphasis on what each dimension actually means for business people and how it affects business-related situations.

This book has become the reference for business people and managers in the area of culture. Simple and very well written without losing credibility; this is a book that will enlighten and guide any manager in dealing with people from other cultures. While in some ways it is a 'western-centric' book (targeted to Western - especially US - managers), it remains very useful for managers from other cultures since the authors have attempted to keep the examples and discussion culturally neutral.
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on 11 August 2010
This is a classic in exploring organisational culture, using data gathered from global workshops and interviews. Although the focus is on understanding the differences between national cultures, this provides significant context in exploring cultures within an organisation where the differences may be across departments rather than nations.

Over many years, the authors have developed a database of cultural responses to their interview questions, and identified a number of axes of cultural difference describing relationships with people, time and the environment. These dimensions measure attitudes to rules vs relationships, group vs individual focus, expression of emotions, range of involvement, how status is noted, time-focus and the relationship with the environment. Each of these axes is explored in detail in the book, with data and anecdotes to illuminate the discussion.

This is a rare book from the scientific management genre, that successfully combines academic rigour with sufficient anecdotes to make the book educational and readable. The book does not contain a panacea for cultural challenges, but includes sufficient tools to enable an astute manager to identify and handle problems arising from cultural differences. In both a global and local context, this is a valuable tool for managing across intra- and extra-organisational cultures.
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on 13 August 2003
Was needing advice for a cross-cultural project between American and British teams. Good insights, though chose a more specific book, "Working with Americans" (Stewart-Allen, Denslow) which told me more about how Americans do business, and their orientation and values in a very accessible, friendly and humourous way... Trompenaars knows his stuff, but doesn't get the chance to focus on the US as much as I'd have liked.
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