"The way we are conditioned to see the world in our own culture seems so completely obvious and commonplace that it is difficult to imagine that another culture might do things differently, "says author Erin Meyer. "It is only when you start to identify what is typical in your culture, but different from others, that you can begin to open a dialogue of sharing, learning, and ultimately understanding."
And, that's why Meyer wrote her new book, The Culture Map.
It's a fascinating read. And, one that should be required reading for any leader doing business globally or leading a culturally diverse workforce.
Meyer explains in her book that there are eight scales (the Culture Map), each of which represents one key area that leaders must be aware of, showing how cultures vary along a spectrum from one extreme to its opposite. The eight scales are:
- Communicating: low-context vs. high-context
- Evaluating: direct negative feedback vs. indirect negative feedback
- Persuading: principles-first vs. applications-first
- Lending: egalitarian vs.hierarchical
- Deciding: consensual vs. top-down
- Trusting: task-based vs. relationship-based
- Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoids confrontation
- Scheduling: linear-time vs. flexible-time
"The sad truth is that the vast majority of managers who conduct business internationally have little understanding about how culture is impacting their work," explains Meyer. "So whether we are aware of it or not, subtle differences in communication patterns and the complex variations in what is considered good business or common sense from one country to another have a tremendous impact on how we understand one another, and ultimately on how we get the job done."
For example, when employees around the world are asked by Meyer to respond to the statement, "It is important for a manager to have at hand precise answers to most of the questions that subordinates may raise about their work," far fewer employees in Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK believe this to be true...versus employees in Spain, Italy and Portugal who more readily agree with this statement.
The Culture Map is filled with engaging, real-life stories and anecdotes from around the world. It's based on years of extensive research by Meyer, who is a professor at INSEAD and the program director for INSEAD's Managing Global Virtual Teams program.
What you learn from the book will be useful to you when your work on a team, email a colleague, participate on a conference call, communicate on the phone with an international customer, or travel to a foreign country.