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theodore

Page history last edited by mgrejda@gmail.com 4 years, 11 months ago

Introduction

The intent of this project was to evaluate the cultural dimensions between our group members through personal examples, then identify and apply the critical differences to potential risks that may occur in a retreat setting. This team consisted of one Swede and three Americans.

 

 

Individual Reflections on Hofstede's Five Dimensions

The first part of this project had each team member share their own backgrounds with one another through personal examples

 

 

Critical Differences Between Cultures

 

Masculinity vs. Femininity

 

Masculinity vs. Femininity is Hofstede’s fourth dimension and here masculinity is defined as “a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success.” vs its counterpart, femininity which is defined as “a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life.” Interesting is that research shows a higher role differentiation between their men and women in masculine cultures than in feminine ones. However, regardless of which orientation a society tends to have, there is still a recognizable gap in behaviour between the genders. For example, in more masculine societies, women are more emphatic and competitive than in feminine ones, but notably less emphatic than the men. This dimension really distinguish itself out of the six, as the index score difference between the United States and Sweden is as high as 57 points. Research shows that Sweden is one of the most feminine countries there is, opposed to the United states that is a relatively masculine one.

 

Characteristics of high MAS United States Sweden
Emotional roles are distinct between the genders In the US, there is quite a strong divide between the genders. Young men and women are brought up to be/feel in certain ways, each taking one side of society's roles. Talking about the differentiation of the genders roles in Sweden, this is probably one of the more neutral societies. An excellent example of this would be how the maternity leave (which is usually as long as 2 years) is often equally divided between the genders.
Work over Family At work in the US, there tend to be an even higher level of masculinity. People working is trying to be the best at what they do which often results in a focus on individual achievements. Even here the maternity leave would serve as a great example for Sweden’s femininity. Leaving work for family instead of focusing on your individual career is a highly feminine behaviour focusing on the “quality of life”.
High poverty level As the US scores higher on the masculinity index, their poverty rate also correlates to Hofstede’s perception that poverty tend to be higher in masculine societies. As you are taught to work hard for your achievements, it seems to exist a general perception that laziness and poverty is related. However the US does show a certain careness for the weak and tries to balance the quality of life which indicates a certain level of femininity. According to Hofstede, the poverty in feminine countries tend to be lower than in masculine ones as they tend to care more about the weak and “unlucky”. According to data (OECD, 2015), Sweden has one of the lowest rates of poverty in the world
Assertive, focusing on material success In the US you are taught from a very young age to always "be all that you can be". The expression enhance a competitive behaviour and individual achievements. This applies to all kinds of situations such as sports, education and workplace, where it is important to show material success. In Sweden, there is a focus on collective achievements. It is common to work in projects and thereof also share the responsibility somewhat equally between team members. The Swedish society is not very tolerant when it comes to people focusing only on their own achievements, thriving upon others expense. There is a mutual understanding nationally, that you are not to think that you are better than someone else. Swedish people are very aware of this unspoken social norm and there is even a name for it “Jantelagen”. Though as the country is exposed to more global interaction, this norm is starting to diminish.

(Hofstede G., 2015)

 

Evaluating the masculinity and femininity in the US society there seems to be a high orientation towards being the best.

 

Long-term orientation vs. Short-term orientation

 

Although the Swedes score (26) is double of Americans score (53) by Hofstede’s index it appears that Swedes do not express a clear preference on this dimension. Whereas American’s are noted in this index as fostering of virtues related to the past and present, in particular, respect for tradition, preservation of ‘face’ and fulfilling social obligations (1).

 

Some attributes for low long term orientation characteristics

Characteristics of low LTO United States Sweden
Emphasis on quick results (1) American publicly held companies report results quarterly and are bottom lined focused. example: expectations of Apple and its ability to remain on the forefront of mobile devices - iPhone, iPad Swedish companies document and evaluate results in short-terms to be able to operate on a long-term.
National pride (2)* Flags are everywhere, singing the national anthem at every sport event, lots of national pride and respect for tradition. Not quite so sacrosanct on traditions.
Ideological fundamentalism as opposed to picking the middle path (2)* American’s tend to choose the extreme. Swede’s tend to choose the middle path.
Spend (1)* American’s are ok with debt and consider shopping a hobby Swedish companies tends to control their financial means strictly evaluating every option thoroughly.

(Hofstede G., 2015)

 

*These characteristics were chosen because these were the most divergent between the cultures of the United States and Sweden. The divergence stems from the fact that Swedes tend to not have a clear preference. Whereas Americans with a lower long term orientation have this higher sense of fulfilling social obligations, being more absolute in designating good and evil and having deep national pride. What makes the United States different is that its ancestry has been built on immigrants with the only thing uniting Americans is its national pride.

 

Individualism vs. Collectivism

 

In the Individualism vs Collectivism index, the Unites States score a (91) as for Sweden scores a (71). The likelihood for the U.S. to score high in individualism is under no question since Americans are known for being individualists seeking potential success in their professional or career life. Both countries are seen as being western and developed compared to less developed and eastern countries that score lower but are seen as collectivist societies.

 

Characteristics of IDV United States Sweden
*Individualist societies have loose ties that only relates to an individual and individual’s immediate family Americans have a higher index in individualism, mainly seen in both professional and educational fields with the ideal of competitiveness. A leading cause for one to believe in providing for themselves or their immediate families rather than other in-groups. Sweden has a lower degree of individualism and it shows in the educational system. Students struggling with low grades get extra resources put in for them to reach the general level. Students who does already have good grades with the possibility to climb, does not get the same attention and resources put in.
Individualistic societies emphasize the “I” versus the “we” Americans, we can say, are traditionally seen as individualists in the workforce or creating goals to a specific career path, which most guidelines are shared as “how can one do for their own life” or in college campuses, you can see flyers stating “ Where do You see yourself in five years?” or “How can I accomplish my five year career plan?” Sweden has a lesser ranking system in individualism compare to the United States mainly cultural reasons and practices that one is seen as a whole. There is less acceptance of individuals thinking for themselves rather than others. So the Sweden score a 71 in the index.
*Developed and western societies are more individualistic/ less developed and eastern societies are considered more collective United States rank high with an Index of 91, since Americans are seen as Westerns. The United States is a developed country with industrialization, technology innovation, and international trade Sweden, just as the US, is seen as a Western country which to some extent explains the index score. Cause, even though our own perception of Sweden is that it is more collective than individual, compared to less developed, eastern countries or Asia for that matter, it is quite individualistic.
Collectivistic societies are tightly-integrated relationships tie to extended families and other in-groups and undoubted loyalty Americans are not seen as a collective society, but there are some cultural norms from other societies that are seen in the United States, such as the Hispanic and Indian cultures. There are many communities that bring services for others in need that are not necessarily immediate family members. As mentioned, the general perception of Sweden is collectivism. Though individuals in first hand might care for their closest family, there are several governmental system caring for the weak in society to increase everyone's quality of life to an acceptable level. Examples of systems that do this are the elderly care, parent support and the huge effort decreasing psychological unhealthiness.

(Hofstede G., 2015)

 

*Hofstede explains the index gap amongst developed and western countries versus countries seen as less developed or eastern countries. He states that “North American and Europe can be considered as individualistic with relatively high scores: for example, 80 for Canada and Hungary. In contrast, Asia, Africa, and Latin America have strongly collectivist values… (Differences between cultures on the values Dimensions) even in comparing the Western societies such as the United States and Sweden, there is a small gap between both countries (see diagram below).

 

*According to Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory, he describes individualism and collectivism index as the “degree to which people in a society are integrated into groups”. Individualism as “a society in which ties specific to the individual or the individual’s immediate family” and collectivism as a “society in which tightly-integrated relationships tie extended families and others into in-groups” (Dimensions of national cultures).

 

Uncertainty avoidance

 

According to Hofstede, "the Uncertainty Avoidance dimension expresses the degree to which the members of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. The fundamental issue here is how a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? Countries exhibiting strong UAI maintain rigid codes of belief and behaviour and are intolerant of unorthodox behaviour and ideas. Weak UAI societies maintain a more relaxed attitude in which practice counts more than principles." (The Hofstede Centre, 2015)

 

In our group we represent two countries, Sweden and the United States. According to the chart below (The Hofstede Centre, 2015), the United States ranks at 46 and Sweden is ranked at 29. The difference between the two numbers tells us that the United States has a more rigid belief regarding uncertainty and ambiguity than the Swedes. Although the United States ranks higher than Sweden, they rate in the middle of all countries. Sweden ranks in the lower half of the countries in regards to uncertainty avoidance. Although this difference is not a large amount, we found from our discussions that there are several similarities/differences.

 

High Uncertainty avoidance Characteristics America (46) Sweden (29)
More Speeding in Traffic Total annual number of people who receive speeding tickets 41,000,000. (Medium-High) (Statistic Brain Research Institute, 2014) Sweden has a high number of speeding tickets due to many speed cameras placed every certain number of miles.
High Physicians > Per 1,000 people 2.3 per 1,000 people Ranked 31st. (Low-Medium) (NationMaster, 2015) 3.3 per 1,000 people Ranked 14th. 43% more than United States (Medium-High) (NationMaster, 2015)
More Frequency of Job Change Research has shown americans change jobs 11 times in their lifetime. (Medium-High) (MindFlash, 2008) Swedes also view changes in jobs as an opportunity and do not tend to avoid the uncertainty. (Medium)
High Alcoholism Ranks 22nd in the world in regards to alcohol consumption. (Medium) (OECD, 2015) Ranks 27th in the world in regards to alcohol consumption (Medium) (OECD, 2015)

(Hofstede G., 2015)

 

In America, we tend to have an eye towards what the future may or may not hold. But on the other hand we try to handle ambiguity. Americans have free will to live the their own lifestyles and create their own career paths. We try to control the future by going to college and gaining experience in careers. A good example of certainty avoidance is that some Americans view changing jobs as an opportunity while other in avoid changing job because they would rather avoid uncertainty. We believe our government and organizations are the same way, they try to plan for the future and put certain things in place to handle ambiguity. For example, implementing strict traffic laws to prevent speeding and critical accidents. Another example of high uncertainty avoidance is drinking a lot of alcohol.

 

In America, of culture has a medium to high problem with alcoholism. It is installed in our cultural that drinking is a cool thing to do when with friends and family. In Sweden we tend to have an open mind towards what the future may bring. We tend to have a liberal view of things such as sexuality, psychological unhealthiness and race and in general people can be whoever they want to. In a business environment, Swedish companies often tries to be flexible and approach challenges from an agile point of view. They prepare themselves for uncertainty rather than try to avoid it. However, when it comes to more governmental issues, Sweden tends to have many laws, rules and norms to handle ambiguity. That is why, although Sweden ranks lower than America, we feel that they should rank around the same area as the United States.

 

Organizational Retreat & Risk Avoidance

 

The organizational retreat that is planned will take place in Japan. The reasons for this distant retreat location are many. The most important aspect considered was to find a location that differentiated itself the most from both the researched countries in order to create as an neutral collaborative environment as possible. After researching both Sweden and The United States through Hofstede’s national culture dimensions and personal experiences, we found that both countries are low to medium long-term orientated, comparable to Japan which according to index is very long-term orientated. As long-term oriented countries often are adaptive and pragmatic in their problem solving this would provide a good environment for developing business. Regarding the uncertainty avoidance dimension Japan is a country with strict codes of behaviour as an opposite to both Sweden and the US. This distinct difference for both Swedes and Americans might help to bring everyone to the same level as none has previous experience from this sort of environment. Decreasing the level distance might also help with the differences in masculinity and femininity between Sweden and the US. As the US is so much more masculine than Sweden the risk that Americans take upon them a role of leadership is distinct. Putting both culture’s in a completely new environment creating a sort of uncertainty may help with this. Last but not least, a good reason for choosing Japan as a host country is there low index position on individualism. As the goal for this organizational retreat is collaboration, choosing a host country that scores high on collectivism feels necessary.

 

The adventure

 

The uncertainty of going far away:

Risk: The uncertainty of going far away to a country like japan with many cultural differences with a group of people that you are not familiar with can be overwhelming to say the least. The idea of all of these factors combined together may make some people anxious, uncertain and fearful for the unknown and can cause culture shock.

Solution: One thing that you can do to minimize a culture shock is to educate yourself about the country, the culture, and your specific destination prior to traveling there. That helps set the expectations right for your upcoming trip and reduces the chances of having an actual culture “shock”. (Travelnerdnici, 2015) The company can provide a booklet of information outlining the key differences of the culture and advice on how to prepare yourself before arriving at your destination. Spending money:

 

Risk: When being asked to travel abroad people may worry about money and if they will plan enough to last the whole trip. The risk of overspending or running out of money can weigh heavily on minds of the people traveling. Also, not understanding how much things may cost and what the ratio of currency is in comparable countries. The exchange rate currency may also present its own set of challenges. These factors are enough to make people not want to travel.

Solution: Before going to the destination, ask in advance for more information. Also discuss if the company will provide a certain budget and resources when abroad. The more information the company provides the more people will be willing to participate. The company should provide valuable knowledge regarding the differences in currency ratio and what is included in the budget/itinerary.

 

Interaction between teams

Collaborative tools & discussions:

Risk: The cultural differences may lead to that the group is divided by culture. Naturally, we seek ourselves to those who are similar to us which in this case might lead to a competitive atmosphere that aggravates collaboration and discussions necessary for reaching the objectives of the business trip.

Solution: A reasonable solution for the potential risk mentioned above is planning and executing some sort of team building activity. This would not only help build a collaborative and hopefully candor environment for everyone to express their thoughts in. It could also help decrease a competitive atmosphere likely to appear when such an obvious divide of teams exists. A crucial thing during this activity would be to mix both the cultures to prepare everyone for the differences that might appear later during business, but also letting team members learn about what they have in common.

 

Risk: Due to the large MAS index difference of the both countries, there might be a risk for uneven discussions and collaboration. As mentioned above Americans, being the more masculine one, risks ending up as leaders which might limit the cultural diversity in discussions and also ideas from reaching the surface.

Solution: A way to avoid this risk would be to choose the right discussion tools for collaboration. Examples could be to replace common brainstorming to a writing form of the same concept, allowing everyone communicating their ideas to a greater extent. Another example is to use collaborative tools such as meetingssphere or stormboard working virtually and simultaneously.

 

Emphasizing results:

The desire for achievement, heroism and assertiveness can at times be misconstrued or turn people off. The United States culture orientates toward quick results; whereas the Sweden culture has “a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life” (reference here). Those with a higher long term orientation value persistence as opposed low long term orientation with the focus on the bottom line.

 

Risk: The desire for achievement and emphasis on results could cause alienation between Sweden and United States cultures.

Solution: As the meeting facilitator help the team create a team working agreement. As part of developing the team working agreement, ask the team to address value driven versus target driven planning. This team of business leaders will likely choose value driven and come to a shared understanding of what that means. Establishing a value driven mindset does two things (1) sets focus and (2) drives frequent team retrospection. For the Swedes, the team retrospection gets at the heart of the collectivist orientation and overall desire to support people. For the Americans, setting focus supports a deliberate behavior of collaboration and collective goals.

 

Risk: By wanting to move quickly it could squander early wins by proceeding without getting buy-in from all team members. With the inverse of by moving too slow it there may not be that shared sense of urgency.

Solution: As the meeting facilitator set the stage that getting this team together is part of the business strategy toward achieving the goal. A business strategy is a long term outlook this provides perspective to both Americans and Swedes. For the Americans this sets the stage for longer term thinking and is still achievement orientated. For the Swedes perhaps a sense of comfort toward longer term thinking and that their seat at the table is an indicator they will be heard.

 

(The Hofstede Centre, 2015)

 

Closing Remarks

Learning Hofstede's dimensions of national culture for analyzing cultural differences is a pragmatic and mindful way to understand and relate to each other with diverse backgrounds. In our team analysis, we determined three distinct culture dimensions between the United States and Sweden the uncertainty of going far away, interaction among team members, and emphasis on results. Although these are the most divergent, as noted above, we discovered ways of mitigating potential pitfalls during the retreat. In closing, with knowledge and mindful behavior people can work with each other to create and build upon each other’s ideas in pursuit of great accomplishment. 

 


References

 

Hofstede G. (2001) Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviours, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations, 2nd Edition, Sage Publications, California: Thousand Oaks USA, page 359. Hofstede G. (2015) 10 Minutes With Geert Hofstede [Online] Youtube. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8ygYIGsIQ4 [Retrieved 23 Oct 2015]

 

Hofstede G., Hofstede J. G. & Minkov M. (2010) Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, 3rd Edition, New York: McGraw-Hill USA. Itim International (2015) Sweden in Comparison with Japan and United States [Online] The Hofstede Centre. Available: http://geert-hofstede.com/sweden.html [Retrieved 25 Oct 2015]

 

MindFlash (2008), How many jobs do Americans hold in a lifetime [Online] MindFlash. Available: https://www.mindflash.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/111805-MF-JOBSWAP_v21.png [Retrieved 26 Oct 2015]

 

NationMaster (2015), Country vs country: Sweden and United States compared [Online] NationMaster. Available: http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Sweden/United-States [Retrieved 26 Oct 2015]

 

NationMaster (2015) Health > Physicians > Per 1,000 people: Countries Compared [Online] NationMaster. Available: http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Health/Physicians/Per-1%2C000-people [Retrieved 26 Oct 2015]

 

OECD (2015), Income Distribution and Poverty: Poverty rate (50% median income), Percentage [Online] OECD. Available: http://stats.oecd.org/index.aspx?queryid=47991. [Retrieved 27 Oct 2015]

 

Statistic Brain Research Institute (2014), Driving Citation Statistics [Online] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Available: http://www.statisticbrain.com/driving-citation-statistics/ [Retrieved 26 Oct 2015]

 

Kasanoff B. (2015), Pick One: Competence or Confidence? [Online] Linkedin. Available: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/pick-one-competence-confidence-bruce-kasanoff [Retrieved 26 Oct 2015]

 

Hofstede G. (2015) 10 Minutes With Geert Hofstede [Online] Youtube. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0YgGdzmFtA [Retrieved 20 Oct 2015]

 

Nicole Elmore, LLC (2014), Travel Nerd NICI [Online] 10 biggest Fears about Travel and how to Overcome them Available: http://travelnerdnici.com/10-biggest-fears-travel-and-answers/ [Retrieved 31 Oct 2015]


 

Team Members

Dominique Carney

Maddie Greida

Kristin Petersson

Matthew Snyder

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