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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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VINE VOICEon 30 June 2006
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.
7 people found this helpful
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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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on 12 October 2013
At times this book is overly complex and its mix of trying to use the style of the " one minute" series of telling through characters can be a little contrived and distract from what is a lot of very good statically information and useful and important considerations. A bit heavy at times; but worth it due to its factual and valuable insight.
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on 12 July 2009
Charles Hampden-Turner, Fons Trompenaars - `Riding The Waves of Culture', offer fabulous insights into the minefield of diversity in the `global village'.

What is really helpful about this book is that they `get it'. It is underpinned and validated by research and years of experience. They are not afraid to say we are all different. We are educated in different ways, which impacts on how we both receive and process information.

The book itself has broadened my understanding of behaviours and beliefs in other cultures. I use this as part of my cross-cultural work when bringing teams together from different parts of the world. Understanding how each other work helps create a common operating space.

This is now a part of my reference library.

Ian Claffey - Oxondon Consulting.
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on 21 February 2016
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on 6 March 2015
Fast delivery - Good value for money
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on 30 April 2017
Great book worth reading it
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on 13 April 2015
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on 7 June 2012
Riding the waves of culture is a must for everybody who wants to understand organizations from a cultural perspective. It is useful bot for introduction as for deepening your knowledge
One person found this helpful
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