Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions Theory

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  • 0:07 Cultural Dimensions
  • 0:40 6 Types
  • 2:02 What Do These Mean?
  • 4:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rob Wengrzyn
Dimensions of culture are an important aspect of international business. Knowing how cultures view different aspects of business can help a manager navigate through the international business market.

Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions

You know, dogs are interesting animals. If you have ever watched a group of different breeds of dogs together, you see that there are dogs who are aggressive, those that are mellow, some want to be the alpha male and some are content just playing and having a good time. These different dimensions are very similar to Geert Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory, a theory that looks at unique aspects of cultures and rates them on a scale for comparison. Now, I am not trying to say dogs to humans are the same, but the way they interact is quite similar.

The Different Types of Hofstede's Dimensions

Geert Hofstede is a professor who researched how people from different countries and cultures interact based on different categories of cultural dimensions. Those categories are:

  • Power Distance: This dimension expresses the degree to which the less powerful members of a society accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.
  • Individualism vs. Collectivism: This dimension focuses on the questions about whether people prefer a close knit network of people or prefer to be left alone to fend for themselves.
  • Masculinity vs. Femininity: Masculinity represents a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material reward for success. Its opposite, femininity, stands for a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life.
  • Uncertainty Avoidance: This dimension expresses the degree to which the member of a society feels uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity.
  • Long-term vs. Short-term Orientation: Long-term orientation dimension can be interpreted as dealing with society's search for virtue. Societies with a short-term orientation generally have a strong concern with establishing the absolute truth.

What Do These Mean?

As we look at the different aspects and definitions of these dimensions, we can begin to see how a manager would have to deal with them and interpret them in an international setting. Just looking at individualism versus collectivism shows us that there are societies, or people, that accept working alone and look at their existence in terms of being an individual rather than part of a group. However, a collectivist would look towards the group's success more so than their own personal satisfaction or accomplishments. Would it surprise you that the U.S. is high on the individual scale while Japan is more on the collectivist side? This means we Americans think more 'I' than 'we,' while Japan is exactly the other way around.

Staying with this example, the U.S. has a low score for uncertainty avoidance. Basically, we are okay with ambiguity and not knowing everything for certain. On the other hand, Japan is very high on this scale, and they do not want uncertainty; they want facts.

By now, you are likely thinking that one country compared to another; one will be high and one will be low. That is not the case though. Take, for example, power distance. Japan and the U.S. are almost equal when it comes to their acceptance of the distribution of power.

Knowing what you do now about these two countries, where do you think they land on long-term versus short-term orientation? This, like the other dimensions, directly relates to their culture and societal norms. To that point, the U.S. is lower in the masculinity versus femininity scale, while Japan is much higher. Thus, Japan looks for a more harmonious world where everyone works together, but Americans are fine being the hero.

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