Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mitch's top 8 dimensions of culture

One of my frequent reading mailing lists has been debating the art of facilitating when you have diverse cultures in the room. The debate has been interesting, but it also reminded me of how often we reduce culture differences down to the simplistic issues of the wrong jester or saying something that is not cultural acceptable. While important, there are models out that explain far deeper differences than that which we can easily identify. A quick meta analysis of the literature can yield easily 10 or more dimensions that we should learn more about. These dimensions play significant role in how much success one can have across cultures as well as can be predictive in determining where a conflict might occur. Here are my top 8 dimensions defined very simply:

Time - One of the easiest to understand. Cultures differences around time include:
  • Are you focused on yesterday, today or tomorrow?
  • Are you focused on one issue/person, or multiple issues at the same time?
  • Is late one minute pass the hour, or 30 minutes pass the hour?
Action - One of the most profound dimensions, relates to how we approach team project:
  • Are you oriented on doing the task or building relationships first.
Communication - A biggy.. and we are not talking about language:
  • How important is context to your communication?
  • Are you direct or indirect in what you share?
  • Are you expressive and show how you feel?
  • How big is protocol and formality to you?
Space - Please stop touching my stuff.. Yes.. how private are you?

Power - Do you prefer hierarchical or flat power structures

Competitiveness vs. Collaborative - Does this one really need an explaination..

Structure - Do you prefer order or like to be flexible?

Individualism - Two perspectives explain this one:
  • Is it about you: "Me" generation vs. our is about the community "taking one for the team"
  • Justice -All treated the same vs. each treated based on their situation and who they are.
I know of other dimensions, but these are the ones that I have seen have impact on learners when they explore their own preferences and learn of cultures differing them.

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