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HPMD Quotes & Sources

These insights are taken from the book "Riding the waves of culture", by Fons Trompenaars, published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing Limited of London in 1993, ISBN 1-85788-0331

What is culture?

"A useful way of thinking about where culture comes from is the following: culture is the way in which a group of people solves problems. ... A problem that is regularly solved disappears from consciousness and becomes a basic assumption, an underlying premise."

Attitudes to time

"In certain cultures like the American, Swedish and Dutch, time is perceived as passing in a straight line, a sequence of disparate events. Other cultures think of time more as moving in a circle, the past and the present together with future possibilities."

Universalism versus particularism

"The universalist approach is roughly: 'What is good and right can be defined and always applies." In particularist cultures far greater attention is given to the obligations of relationships and unique circumstances. For example, instead of assuming that the one good way must always be followed, the particularist reasoning is that friendship has special obligations and hence may come first. Less attention is given to abstract societal codes."

Individualism versus collectivism

"The individualist society, with its respect for individual opinions, will frequently ask for a vote to get all noses pointing in the same direction. The drawback to this is that within a short time they are likely to have reverted to their original orientation. The collectivist society will intuitively refrain from voting because this will not show respect to the individuals who are against the majority decision. It prefers to deliberate until consensus is reached. The final result takes longer to achieve, but will be much more stable. In individualistic societies there is frequently disparity between decision and implementation."

Neutral or emotional

"In North America and north-west Europe business relationships are typically instrumental and all about achieving objectives. The brain checks emotions because these are believed to confuse the issues. ... But further south and in many other cultures, business is a human affair and the whole gamut of emotions deemed appropriate. Loud laughter, banging your fist on the table or leaving a conference room in anger during a negotiation is all part of business."

Specific versus diffuse

"In the case of one American company trying to win a contract with a South American customer, disregard for the importance of the relationship lost the deal. The American company made a slick, well thought-out presentation which it thought clearly demonstrated its superior product and lower price. Its Swedish competitor took a week to get to know the customer. For five days the Swedish spoke about everything except the product. On the last day the product was introduced. Though somewhat less attractive and slightly higher priced, the diffuse involvement of the Swedish company got the order."

Achievement versus ascription

"In an achievement culture, the first question is likely to be 'What did you study?', while in a more ascriptive culture the question will more likely be 'Where did you study?' Only if it was a lousy university or one they do not recognise will ascriptive people ask what you studied, and that will be to enable you to save face."

Attitudes to the environment

"Cultures vary in their approaches to the given environment, between belief that it can be controlled by the individual and belief that the individual must respond to external circumstances. We should not, however, make the error of assuming that inner-direction and outer-direction are exclusive options. All cultures necessarily take some notice of what is inside or outside. To fail to do so would lead inner-directed cultures into a headlong rush to disaster, while outer-directed cultures would try to please everyone and dissipate their energies by over-compliance."

Short Quote:

"The universalist approach is roughly: 'What is good and right can be defined and always applies.' In particularist cultures far greater attention is given to the obligations of relationships and unique circumstances." --Fons Trompenaars
© Copyright 1995, 2000, HP Management Decisions Ltd., All Rights Reserved.

Author:Trompenaars, Fons
Title:Riding the Waves of Culture.
Publisher:Nicholas Brealey Publishing Limited
Place (City):London
Publication Date:1993
Source Type:
Quote Number:13