UPFRONT Why culture counts

Once you’ve shaken hands, the business deal is done – yes? Well not if you’re in the Middle East; there, it’s just sign that negotiations can start in earnest.
It’s worth knowing things like that to avoid misunderstandings when doing business with people who have different cultural values. It’s also handy to be aware that contract negotiation is longwinded but vital aspect of doing business in Argentina, understand how red tie could help your case in Hong Kong and how to respond when people applaud your entry to business meeting in China.
All of which is why Dutch professor Geert Hofstede has gained an international reputation for his work on cultural and organisational management. His most recent book on the subject, Cultures and Organisations: software of the mind, was co-authored with his son Gert Jan Hofstede.
He believes culture is “more often source of conflict than of synergy” and cultural differences can prove disastrous. To aid mutual understanding, he’s compiled five cultural dimensions that provide clues as to national difference as well as six separate dimensions of practice that distinguish organisational culture.
The elder Hofstede, who is here this month as guest of the AUT, will have chance to test the veracity of his cultural dimensions graph for New Zealand. This gives us lower-than-average power distance index (we’re not great respecters of hierarchies), high individualism ranking, fairly average masculinity model for work achievement, lowish ability to tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity (we like rules??), and we’re not too high on the long-term orientation index.
He’ll also probably be avoiding the “V sign for victory” while in this country. More information at www.geert-hofstede.com

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