Erin Meyer released her book, The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business, in 2014, and it was based on over a decade worth of research collected from well over 20 countries.[1][2]

The book is the basis of Meyer's cultural theory and it was created to provide a framework for evaluating different cultures. Her field-tested model is useful for finding out how international business can be affected by different cultures, and the book contains a lot of practical advice for everyone working in a global environment. One main focus of the book is improving international success by increasing the effectiveness of every-day work life, such as organizing cross-cultural conference calls and motivating employees.[3]

To make sure a message is understood correctly, it's important to be aware of how differently people from across multiple cultures can perceive the same issue[4]. Meyer's model also helps people realize their own cultural strengths and weaknesses by providing a self-assessment tool[5]. The tool presents you with several questions and in the end compares your answers to the average of your culture.

For her culture map theory, Meyer collected data by interacting with people from different cultures and observing their behaviour. She based her ideas on real life stories and examples, but there's little information on the actual hard data behind the book. [6] When asked via email, Meyer said that all the positions on the scales of her actual model have been either generated from or later tested and validated in hundreds of qualitative interviews. For example interviewing a hundred Chinese managers living in Japan and a hundred Japanese managers living in China gives the gap between China and Japan on the scales.

The concepts Edit

Cultural differences often determine about someone views as acceptable workplace behaviour. Knowing and respecting these differences is crucial in today’s global environment. International-business expert Erin Meyer dispels the confusion by providing a “culture map” for visualizing these differences. She smartly identifies eight pivotal problem areas marked by cultural disparities, creates a scaled continuum for each area and plots countries along each progression.

In The Culture Map, Erin Meyer provides a field-tested model for decoding how cultural differences impact international business. She combines a smart analytical framework with practical, actionable advice for succeeding in a global world.

Many people, perhaps especially Americans, underestimate how differently people do things in other countries.

Meyer claims that we can improve relationships by considering where we and international partners fall on each of these scales:

·       Communicating: explicit vs. implicit

·       Evaluating: direct negative feedback vs. indirect negative feedback

·       Persuading: deductive vs. inductive

·       Leading: egalitarian vs. hierarchical

·       Deciding: consensual vs. top down

·       Trusting: task vs. relationship

·       Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoid confrontation

·       Scheduling: structured vs. flexible

Communicating Edit

Americans are the most explicit or low-context culture there is (low-context meaning that their conversation assumes relatively little intuitive understanding). This is not surprising for a young country composed of immigrants that prides itself on straight-talking. Japan and other East Asian countries represent the other extreme.

Meyer offers strategies for negotiating these differences, but the most basic solution, as with all scales, is simply to be aware. Thus Americans in Japan should pay attention to what's not being said; while Japanese in America should brace themselves for direct language.


The Culture Map

Evaluating Edit

Americans may be very explicit communicators, but they are in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to giving negative feedback. Israelis, Russians, and Dutch are among the most direct when it comes to negative feedback. Japanese are among the most indirect.


Persuading Edit

Some cultures, notably the French and Italians, tend toward deductive arguments, focusing on theories and complex concepts before presenting a fact, statement, or opinion.

Others, notably Anglo-Saxon cultures, tend toward inductive arguments, starting with focusing first on practical application before moving to theory. This trait shows up in everything from how people give presentations or lead meetings to how they write emails.


Leading Edit

"In Denmark, it is understood that the managing director is one of the guys, just two small steps up from the janitor". This represents one extreme in attitudes toward leadership.

On the other side of the spectrum in countries like Japan and Korea, however, the ideal boss should stand far above the workers at the top of a hierarchy. America's outlook on leadership falls somewhere in the middle.


Deciding Edit

The decisions organizations make relates closely to how they view leadership, but with some important differences. Notably, while Japan has a very hierarchical leadership system, it has a very consensual decision-making system. This is the famous ringi system, which involves building consensus at a lower level before bringing a proposal to a higher level, thus enabling broad corporate consensus.


Trusting Edit

In some cultures, notably America, people don't worry so much about trusting each other because they trust their legal system to enforce contracts, and so business negotiations focus on what's practical.

In others, including many emerging market economies but also to a lesser extent Western Europe, personal relationships are much more important, in part because people don't trust their legal system to enforce contracts.


Disagreeing Edit

Some cultures embrace confrontation while others avoid it. This scale looks a lot like the scale showing the directness of negative feedback, though with some differences, such as Sweden being further to the left (direct) on negative feedback and further to the right (avoiding confrontation) on disagreeing.


Scheduling Edit

That different cultures treat time differently is one of the most common observations for anyone working or even traveling abroad. On one extreme you've got the exceedingly precise Germans and Swiss; Americans fall relatively close to this end of the spectrum; Western Europeans and Latin Americans tend to be more flexible; Africa, the Middle East, and India are extremely flexible. [7]


Nation Classification and Characterisation Edit

With help of her tool, the Culture Map, Erin Meyer classifies various (business) cultures by comparing their respective differences along the eight scales where the gaps are most common. No culture or nation is simply being characterized solely on its own. This approach easily leads to stereotype portrayal of a nation on just one or two dimensions and hence to false assumptions[8]. The point and the achievement of Culture Map is a relative presentation of one culture to another. This makes cross-cultural management communication in a globalized working life smoother and more productive. [9]

Source Edit

  1. [5][1]
  2. [6][2][3]
  3. [7][4]
  4. [8][5]
  5. [9][6]
  6. [10][7]
  7. [11][8]
  8. [12][9]
  9. [13][10] 
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