Reflections (and a tiny, insignificant experiment) on Hofstede’s book, Cultures and Organizations

Theseus Mosaic, unknown artist, 300 AD – 400 AD
source


Source: Hofstede, Geert, et.al. (2010) Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind

A leadership/management reflection: My favorite line in all the book states that the most important management skill is to utilize strengths of the local culture.  Don’t make people adapt to you; support them with the resources they need to accomplish the mission.  On point.

An anthropology reflection:  Let’s go to the EEA (Environment Of Evolutionary Adaptedness) and think about cultures in a poor resource ecology.  I bet there’s a lack of power distance since everyone needs to contribute in physical ways to survive.  This reminds me of the short ethnology Eating Christmas in the Kalahari – a must-read in understanding equality in hunter-gatherers.  Also, when I studied traditional and modern warfare, I found power distance greatly increases with the agricultural revolution and the rise of state armies.  More resources and more protection means less for others to do on a daily basis and frees them to pursue other whims such as art and politics.

A tiny, insignificant experiment: I thought I would try a little experiment after finishing the book.  First, I thought of a basic hypothesis for each dimension as related to the COVID-19 pandemic outcomes.  Then I randomly selected two countries for each cultural dimension that reside on different points of the spectrums (I actually did a pretty good job selecting countries from what I remember from the reading).  Finally, I compared the countries to their current COVID-19 data concerning cases and deaths (collected 01 June 2020). 

Disclaimers: It should be pointed out this is nowhere near a representative or generalizable sample.  I understand some COVID-19 data may not reported correctly.  And, I also retain the rights to be wrong and the right to be corrected.

Pro tip: If you haven’t been exposed to the cultural dimensions, or need a refresher, there is a good overview on Hofstede-Insights.com.


A power distance hypothesis:  Higher power distance may mean more control over the population and less cases and deaths.

Sample conclusion: Supported. 

DimensionCountry (Score)Pandemic cases/deaths per 100,000Country (Score)Pandemic cases/deaths per 100,000Pandemic results
Power distanceU.K. (35)405/57Mexico (81)65/7Mexico has fared better

A collectivism vs. individualism hypothesis:  Collectivism countries should care more about the group wellbeing leading to less cases/death.

Sample conclusion: Nulled.

DimensionCountry (Score)Pandemic cases/deaths per 100,000Country (Score)Pandemic cases/deaths per 100,000Pandemic results
Ind. vs. Col.Mexico (30)65/7New Zealand (79)31/<1N.Z. has fared better

A femininity vs. masculinity hypothesis: Feminine countries may be more concerned with healthcare and have not only the infrastructure to help those affected but would also follow experts.

Sample conclusion: Nulled

DimensionCountry (Score)Pandemic cases/deaths per 100,000Country (Score)Pandemic cases/deaths per 100,000Pandemic results
Fem. vs. Mas.Iraq (70)18/<1Sweden (5)371/43Iraq has fared better

An uncertainty avoidance hypothesis: Countries with higher UA will respond well unless they are averse to change (or science, etc.).

Sample conclusion: Supported

DimensionCountry (Score)Pandemic cases/deaths per 100,000Country (Score)Pandemic cases/deaths per 100,000Pandemic results
UAIreland (35)1,652/34Japan (92)899/<1Japan has fared better

A long-term orientation vs. short-term orientation hypothesis: Countries with LTO will have less cases/deaths due to focus on the future.

Sample conclusion: Supported

DimensionCountry (Score)Pandemic cases/deaths per 100,000Country (Score)Pandemic cases/deaths per 100,000Pandemic results
LTO vs. STOGermany (83)8,511/10Thailand (32)57/>1Thailand has fared better

An indulgence vs. restraint hypothesis: Countries will more restraint will have less cases/death due to abilities to deny themselves external pleasures (e.g. shopping, dining, etc.).

Sample conclusion: Supported

DimensionCountry (Score)Pandemic cases/deaths per 100,000Country (Score)Pandemic cases/deaths per 100,000Pandemic results
Ind. vs. Res.Albania (15)40/1U.K. (69)405/57Albania has fared better

More on Sources:

https://www.hofstede-insights.com/ (scroll down the page and type in different countries to compare their dimensions – super neat!)

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/world/coronavirus-maps.html (scroll down and search for each countries current pandemic statistics on cases and deaths)

Let me know your thoughts; please comment below!


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