CROSS CULTURAL/INTERCULTURAL BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS
CROSS CULTURAL/INTERCULTURAL BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS
Academic Level: Masters
Volume of 4000 – 4200 words (15 pages)
Assignment type : Dissertation
Through these years, culture is being measured by hundreds of instruments and many more models may be introduced in next few years (Taras et al., 2009) hence the ongoing debate between the essentialist and non-essentialist opinions versed in social science literature. This report shall firstly consider the strength and limitations of the dimensional approach to culture, arguments related to its validity and reliability, then examine the two noteworthy notions of culture regarding cultural complexities. Lastly, I shall assert my opinion guided by the debate surrounding the research methodology for intercultural business communication.
Hofstede’s Cultural-dimensional Approach- Research and Arguments in support of its validity and reliability (1250 Words).
Since the inception of Hofstede’s popular publication titled “Culture’s Consequences” (1980) where he introduced five cultural dimensions, there has been an outburst of interest and researches regarding the measurement of culture thus giving rise to several models and instruments of culture for example (Taras et al. 2009) seven dimensions by Trompenaars (1993), ten dimensions by Schwartz (1994), six tri-dimensional constructs by Maznevski and DiStefano (1995), and eighteen dimensions in the GLOBE model of culture (House et al., 2004).
Even though Hofstede’s popular cultural dimensions is widely favoured by scholars within the cross-cultural context for several reasons which includes convenience, limited availability of alternatives, popularity and simply habit (Taras et al. 2009), there is a considerably wide range of critiques to the dimensional approach to culture (McSweeney, 2002). Regardless of articulated criticisms of the Hofstedian model, his research remains widely used by scholars and practitioners due to its interesting features (Furrer 2000; Ross 1999; Søndergaard 1994). According to Søndergaard (1994) Hofstede’s study has received an overwhelming 1,036 citations, whereas studies on strategy such as by Miles and Snow has only 200 citations. Numerous scholars share his views and thus support the acceptance and popularity of the Hofstedian model (Søndergaard, 1994). It is also interesting to note that quite a lot of the studies were not intended as duplications of Hofstedian model, but they were rather fashioned to ascertain the relevance of his report. Most of these reports have long-established the accuracy of Hofstede’s dimensional approach (Søndergaard, 1994). Additionally, most of the several hundreds of instruments today consists of similar concept of the Hofstedian model. Consequent upon this, this report shall be premised on the Hofstedian model.
Overview of Hofstede’s dimensional approach
Geert Hofstede (1984, 1994, 2001) developed his cultural dimensions to measure different values, customs, and importance between cultures. He did his research whilst working at IBM between 1967 and 1973 where he used five cultural dimensions to compare about 40-60 countries (Hofstede, 2001).
According to Hofstede, G. (2009) culture is a form of social programming of the mindset that differentiates a member of a certain category of people from another. Some
of his cultural dimensions includes Power Distance, Masculinity/ Feminity, Individualism/ Collectivism, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long or short-term orientation (Hofstede, 1994).
Source: Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension Model (Hofstede, 1991, p.28)
Critiques of the dimensional/ Hofstedian approach:
Despite the widespread popularity of the Hofstedian model, there are pressing concerns about the validity and reliability of the data used in his survey, methodology, and lots more (Taras et al., 2009). The next part of this report shall cover the critiques of Hofstedian model.
According to Holliday (2011), the cultural dimensions are “ideologically problematic” because it does not portray a neutral picture of the world but rather divides the world along different unequalled tribes. Therefore, it is ideologically quite risky to use dimensions anymore because it is essentialist and stereotypical. Also, Ferri (2016) stated that, epistemologically, cultural dimensions are quite limited because it tends to separate the world into two tribes or even more. McSweeney (2002) termed the dimensional approach as a failure of analysis, and believes that cultural dimension approach is taken in the form of religion where people embrace its concept based on its popularity and
acceptance whereas the methodology is flawed. This pertinent question comes to mind, what did Hofstede do in his research considering Data collection?
McSweeney (2002) argued that the assumption of the cultures of the IBM employees is flawed because. This is because the survey failed to acknowledge the three distinct cultures of the IBM employees (because they could have been from different countries) and the impact on their behaviour namely (McSweeney, 2002): National culture which is singular; Occupational culture which could be somewhat monopolistic and singular; Organisational culture which is similar. McSweeney (2002) believes that it is not logical to assume any form of uniformity in a survey that claims to have the answer. Also, there are always differences in opinion (McSweeney, 2002) about questionnaires on national cultures which should have been taken into consideration but Hofstede failed to do so because he put them in a box and even admitted to it in his response (Hofstede, 2002). Additionally, McSweeney (2002) argues that if principal and comprehensive questions were asked in the survey, a different view would have resulted.
Self-report questionnaires could be regarded as one of the most popular and primary tool for quantifying cultural dimensions but the process is thoroughly observed in practice (Taras et al., 2009). However, Hofstede and most of his followers only used questionnaires without any interview or observation of the process. This goes to show that his massively looking data is mainly qualitative. Also, face to face interviews is another practical method as conducted by Inglehart research (Inglehart et al., 2004) which is quite similar to a survey, but it’s like even though I’m talking to a real person, I am helping you to tick the boxes as well. This goes to show that the choice of method is considerably narrow in this type of research. How truthful where the participants? How reliable could the data be considering the year it was generated? How much has changed within these cultures through these years? Lastly, where these issues raised in the report as some sort of limitation? (Holliday, 2010). Considering the weaknesses mentioned, it is evident that a research does not guarantee an honest answer, so much must have changed ever since the time of the report, and there is nowhere in the report stating that his report as limited to these issues, therefore it is clear that Hofstede’s conclusion is not trustworthy (Hofstede 1998, 481).
In terms of countries, 40-60 countries is quite a massive scope to measure accurately therefore it could be argued that some countries are rather depicted and judged by their
geographical location instead of facts (Graves, 1986). Hofstede’s (1984) IBM survey was focused on 100,000 individuals and yet he claims to have covered the world filled with billions of people. IBM does not represent the world (Graves 1986, 14-15; Olie 1995, 135; Søndergaard 1994, 449). Other studies based their data from 2-10 countries. Inglehart’s (1997) survey covered 99,000 individuals, The GLOBE Project (2004) covered 17,370 individuals, Trompenaars and colleagues covered 8,841individuals, Schwartz (1992) covered 6,849 individuals and then another 10,857. The question is whether these sampling sizes are big enough to generalize the world? (Dorfman and Howell 1988, 130; Furrer 2000, 358). This clearly indicate that the sampling size is not really impressive.
Even though the sampling distribution looks good, it could be inferred that the way it is being distributed across the countries is characteristically extremely skewed (Taras et al., 2009). However, it is evident that there is an uneven distribution of the sampling (McSweeney 2000). For example, there are about 1000 individuals representing some countries while some were represented by 37, 88, 58 etc. The pertinent question that comes to mind is who are the samples? IBM? (Graves 1986, 14-15; Olie 1995, 135; Søndergaard 1994, 449).
Furthermore, there was no data or questionnaire created for this research purpose by Hofstede (McSweeney 2000). He used data from another survey which was already in place and designed for another purpose, and then re-analyzed it for his own research agenda (McSweeney 2000). Therefore, it could be inferred that it is a secondary research based on a massive number which is unevenly distributed, and based on one single entity (McSweeney, 2002). Hofstede (1998) responded saying that, no matter the number of respondents he surveyed, he will achieve same conclusion (Hofstede, 1998).
Critiques of the cultural-dimensional approach around anti-essentialist notions of “cultural complexity” (1250 Words).
There is an ongoing debate and criticisms regarding ‘over-simplification of complex realities’ (Ailon, 2008; Bond et al., 2000; Fang, 2010; McSweeney, 2002) for a number of reasons which will be looked at in this part of the report.
Singer, Marshall R. (1998) believes that the culture of an identity group entails a scholarly patterned perception and acceptance of attitudes, behaviours, beliefs, non-verbal and verbal modes of communication, values etc. Therefore, it could be inferred that an identity group has its own culture if they have their own way of perception, language, or behavioural pattern that is best understood to them.
Adrian Holiday (2011) believes that some people view cultures as some sort of massive construction erected over our head, which ultimately dictates the rules of people. This means that they see culture as large sized units i.e. countries, and considers people from a given culture as homogenous instead of heterogeneous i.e. of same kind (Yuan, 1997). Such views are regarded as essentialist and positivist according to linguistic Adrian Holiday (2011).
However, even though the essentialist notion is deemed positivist, while the non-essentialist notion is considered to be interpretive, the positivist view is widely acknowledged far more than the interpretive view (Holliday, 1999).
The positivist paradigm (Askehave et al., 2006) entails assumptions of some sort of existing objective realities therefore they are poised to unveil such realities through the use of designed instruments, tests, statistical numbers from samples, experiments etc with a view to finding measures that could be used in a broad context as regard their research (Askehave et al., 2006). Hence, they tend to accumulate data from their research respondents or subjects to figure out their given culture and what they actually do in this culture. Therefore, in their view, people from that given culture are more than likely to behave in that particular way (Holliday, 2011).
In contrast, some other people do not equate culture with size oriented groups (Jameson, 1999). They believe that so long as certain cohesive thinking and behaviour is emerging from individuals, their culture is developing. This means that they view culture as complex and could change by certain factors (Jameson, 1999). This view is regarded by Holiday (2011) as an anti-essentialist and interpretivist notion in his critique of Hofstede’s dimensional approach.
The interpretivist paradigm according to researchers uphold assumptions that only through subjective understanding that the social world can be understood (Askehave et al., 2006). Therefore, studies around this paradigm tend to construct and interpret the social world by means of thorough explorations of distinct features that might be insightful in view of the study (Askehave et al., 2006). Therefore, in the conduct of their research participants are allowed to tell them what cultures appears or seems to them as a way to enable them to investigate what a given culture actually look like and entails (Askehave et al., 2006). This goes to show that the positivist paradigm does not construe behaviours or thought patterns to cultures, rather it enables one to learn how a person might behave, and that such behaviours could change from time to time.
Holliday (2011) further maintains that the concept of cultural dimensional approach to culture is largely characterized by some sort of imagined certainty instead of recognizing complexity. Based on Holliday (2010) study of 32 different nationals from an essentialist view, he asked exploratory questions such as ‘the major features of cultural identity, and the role of nation in cultural identity’, he discovered that even though their nationalities differ, their personal views on cultural complexities as contained in their email response of about 23,000 words from 28 of them were similar, and not limited to any cultural context. Even though nationality is Important, Holliday (1999) argues that it contradicts a range of cultural realities that revolves around an individual’s life such as family history, language, job, religion, community, etc. These results emanated from theories of social action where culture is in discourse with social restraint according to Holliday (1999).
Holiday (2011) contends that cultural diversity is acknowledged while the concept of essentialism or generalization of culture is being rejected by contemporary researchers in intercultural communication, their studies are classed as neo-essentialist if they contain any essentialist feature.
Models introduced by Hofstede and his followers are notable for the generalization of national cultural tendencies but merely regarded cultural diversity in their research as observed by Holiday (2011). In a Neo- essentialist context, considering a case study about the cultural difficulties facing Chinese students across learning institutions in the UK (Retrieved from Zhou, 2005). This research is intended to pinpoint and understand the root of the hindrances rather than merely enumerating the cultural constraints of Chinese students studying in the UK. A qualitative research conducted on the four Chinese students found three types of difficulties experienced by them in the UK such as Collectivism, P.D, Masculinity etc (Retrieved from Zhou, 2005).
However, a notable limitation of this research is that the difficulties experienced by the students was assessed from a cultural viewpoint and failed to take into consideration issues like individual causes (Retrieved from Zhou, 2005). Even though it is noteworthy that cultural identity could by some means be linked to an individual’s behaviour, Zhou (2005) argues that because an individual’s distinctive traits can distinguish them from others, therefore, individual factors plays a key role on the effect of cultural influences on the behaviour of individuals (Retrieved from Zhou, 2005). No two individuals are the same according to Singer, Marshall R. (1998).
Consequent upon these, there are some problems associated with the neo-essentialist view which will be considered in the next few paragraphs.
According to Holliday (1999), the Hofstede’s model is a culturist approach (which means that whatever you do is attributed to your culture) and thus branded it as a proponent of essentialism and a large cultural approach. Holliday (1999) described the Hofstedian model as a top-down approach based on cultural determinism due to its belief that culture causes behaviour. Holliday (1999) considered this view to be positivist because they tend to fix people in certain boxes often around national cultures. Such people believe that whatever they observe about an individual, is a product of his culture. Therefore, they use their own knowledge to judge other people culture, behaviour and thought pattern (Holliday, 2011).
The idea of labelling people tends to reduce people than they are meant to be (Holliday, 1994b, 1997a, 1999)). This is because they fail to take into consideration a wide range of potential features and the total complexity of groups of people just to suit their characterization (Hyde and Kullman, 2004).
Othering / Demonization
Holliday (2011) considered the neo essentialist view as othering or demonizing because it gives people an avenue to describe foreigners in a negative way by means of using certain languages or offensive names to label people such as black monkey etc.
Similarly, such forms of othering or demonization (Holliday, 1994b, 1997a, 1999) could be carried out indirectly for example, the view that people from the Middle East lacks personalized critical thinking or the view that if you are from a collective culture, you should have less choices. This clearly shows that some sort of projection of your positive imaginary being on a negatively imaginary other. This clearly goes to show that Hofstede’s separatist cultural dimensions can be likened to a mere rudimentary representation of an idealized personality while the other is demonized according to Holliday (2011).
Author’s View (500 Words).
It could be argued that a theory is only an invention because even though it is seemingly valuable, it could be flawed and thus devoid of certain expectation. Looking at the descriptive power perspective of Hosfstede and his followers’ dimensions, it is obvious that many scholars propound theories especially in social or scientific fields to describe social phenomenon without experimenting with natural elements such as putting two people together to yield a more accurate result.
Considering the explanatory power of the theories of Hofstede and his followers, their views have some sort of explanatory power such as using other language to summarize a situation for example the national boundaries observed in their reports. Consequently, such theories go behind the phenomenon, and then present some sort of explanatory reasons for fixing people in a box under the guise of cultural identities.
Predictive power entails using a theory derived from the past or present to predict the likelihood of something in future, to guide our thinking and behaviour. Also, a theory is rarely ideologically free because it largely depends on the person that created the theory and the hidden values beneath the theory otherwise known as ideological underpinnings. Therefore, bearing all these in mind, considering the literature of critiques of the Hofstedian model and its supporters with a view to finding out if the cultural dimensional approach to culture is strong or weak based on these four criteria, it is pertinent to mention that Hofstede’s dimensions is not an ultimate theory in this context.
There are notable flaws associated with the validity and reliability of the dimensional measurement of cultures as opined by Holiday (2000). These issues include fewer dimensions, national/ organisational cultures, labelling, outdated data, research methodology etc. However, according to Singer, Marshall R. (1998) it is unfair to use a model to generalize countries and their differences because culture is complex. Though some people uphold Hofstede’s homothetic study of cultures in high esteem and believes that the dimensional approach is suitable for measuring cultures. Hofstede’s simple and comparative dimensions has been helpful for the expansion and development of many businesses cross-culturally since the 1980’s according to Holliday (2011). Based on this logic, it is notable that the Hofstedian model is somewhat beneficial in cultural research, but it could be argued that as time changes most nations tend to change with the times because culture is emerging (Holliday. 2011). Therefore, the dimensional approach is subject to further modifications with time.
One major problem with qualitative researches is the exploration of a concept (Holliday, 2011). While quantitative research flaws lie on how you decipher the factors that produces the outcome because it is a social science research that covers natural issues. Therefore, it is advisable to use mixed research methodologies because it encompasses qualitative and quantitative methods, and philosophical views to yield alternative results when needed.
Consequent upon the aforementioned, when conducting a methodology for researching Intercultural Business Communication, it is imperative to Ask exploratory questions; Submit to the data to allow themes to emerge; Select extracts to support each theme; Engage with each extract in a discussion of the theme; Reassess the themes in the placing of extracts as the discussion develops (Holliday, 2011).