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Power Collaboration Profile blurs Hofstede's research on national cultural dimensions

by Morten Cavling Arendrup and Jeppe Vilstrup Hansgaard

Part 1


February 22 2012 - This article presents data that for the first time examines the collaboration and power structure dimensions of management. The objective is to provide new insight into the current and preferred power distance and collaboration in organizations. All data in this article have been collected by Innovisor from more than 7 different countries, and consolidated into the Power Collaboration Profile, Web site, Shaping Global Leadership (2011),

Hopefully, the new insight will help managers and leaders navigate in today's global multi-cultural business environment. Moreover, the new data will complement the splendid, albeit old research by Professor Geert Hofstede.

One key finding from the new data is that national differences with regard to the power distance dimension have become blurred, since Hofstede completed his original research studies in the seventies. Thus it can be argued that Hofstede's framework for assessing and differentiating national cultures has now become less relevant for understanding cross-cultural barriers in a business context.

Second, most knowledge-intensive industries in this study would like increased collaboration. Generally speaking, the differences between industries are more significant than those between countries. Moreover, the data point to a collaboration gap between the perceived and the desired collaboration. Of the industries we have examined, the most pronounced desire for more collaboration is in consulting and pharmaceutical.

Third, the desire for more collaboration is significantly larger than the desire for shorter power distance.

Background and purpose

Human nature is intensely social, we humans are pack animals, we use language to communicate with each other, and we thrive on collaboration and competition. So why is culture important? Because culture is the set of unwritten rules about 'how we do things around here' and how we become good members of society based on national, corporate or religious characteristics, to mention but a few. Today each of us belongs to a vast array of different groups at the same time, and we collaborate with members of other groups across boundaries and geography.

Hofstede developed a framework for assessing and differentiating national cultures also known as the cultural dimensions theory. He built a comprehensive model which argues that people differ across on the extent to which they endorse six dimensions of values - power (equality versus inequality), collectivism (versus individualism), uncertainty avoidance (versus tolerance), masculinity (versus femininity), temporal orientation, and indulgence (versus restraint), Hofstede, Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations Across Nations. Second Edition, Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications, 2001

Hofstede's model came about at a time when cultural differences between societies had become increasingly relevant for both economic and political reasons.

Although Hofstede's model has been widely embraced by practitioners, some critics have argued that his conceptualization of culture is not static and as essential as he mentions. The most cited criticism of his work is by Professor Brendan McSweeney (Royal Holloway, University of London and Stockholm University) who argues that Hofstede's methodology is fundamentally flawed.

Since Hofstede's research new patterns of behavior have emerged. People travel a lot more than before, and working across borders and cultures is now commonplace for most large corporations. This has somewhat blurred the concept of national stereotypes that focus on the relations among different groups in a social structure. Psychoanalytically-oriented humanists such as Gilman, S. have argued that stereotypes, by definition, are representations that are not accurate, but a projection of one to another. Which factors then, other than the stereotypes or national characteristics, i.e. a typical Swiss is always punctual, now determine the differences, if any? Indeed, the business world has become so globalized that it is relevant to challenge previous cross-cultural research.

This article presents data that for the first time examines the collaboration and power structure dimensions of management. The objective is to provide new insight into the current and preferred power distance and collaboration in organizations in a working environment. All data in this article have been collected by Innovisor from more than 7 different countries, thus introducing the Power Collaboration Profile. Consequently, we have launched a new web site, where data and information is stored. The site will be updated continuously, and new results will be posted online regularly on the web site,

Hopefully, the new insight will help managers and leaders to successfully navigate in today's global and multi-cultural business world.

Introduction and study approach

In this article we present data from an ongoing study. Like Hofstede, we have decided to continue our data collection to expand knowledge even further and to continuously increase the data quality by giving more respondents the opportunity to participate. Our study has attracted global interest from both practitioners and academia.

The Global Knowledge Society

Any knowledge society is predominantly economic. It has become a productive force that increasingly will replace capital, labor, and natural resources as value- and wealth-creating factors.

The Global Knowledge Society presents new management challenges of great complexity. We work and collaborate around the clock, formally and informally, inside and outside the company, across borders, genders, cultures and educational backgrounds. And we operate on all types of electronic platforms.

Managers and leaders need to know how to handle and manage collaboration and knowledge flows when acting in today's business environment. Barriers need to be broken down in order to pave the way for effective knowledge-sharing and cross-collaboration. Instinctively, we reach out for the managerial toolbox to better understand the issues hoping to find a structured approach to overcome them. Management is constantly challenged by the Global Knowledge Society in any shape or form, be it mergers, acquisitions, re-organizations or simply business globalization.

All this poses a central question; is the toolbox available to management today up-to-date and applicable in the day-to-day management of the inherent challenges in the Global Knowledge Society?

A new handle on management in the Global Knowledge Society

In the period 1967-1973 Hofstede collected data on 113,000 IBM employees from more than forty different countries. Basically, he set out to analyze five parameters: Power Distance, Individualism/ Collectivism, Masculinity/ Femininity, Security Needs and Long/ Short horizon orientation. These parameters were used to stereotype each country using a 1 to 100 index. Since then, more countries have been added to Hofstede's original list.

Looking at Hofstede's research today one needs to be aware that the data define national stereotypes, the data is static and last, but not least, the bulk of the data collection took place in an era when the Soviet Union still existed, when Germany was still divided in two, and China was closed to the outside world. The notion of a Global Knowledge Society was something only few people could even begin to imagine back then.

With this analysis we present new insight and knowledge about the perception of collaboration and power distance. And so, we have re-used the power distance parameter from Hofstede's research, and combined it with the collaboration dimension, which is one of the key managerial parameters in today's business world.

How we collect data

All data has been collected via a web based questionnaire. To help respondents quickly grasp what the survey is about, we designed the questionnaire like depicted Figure 1 below.

Figure 1

The red dot indicates the manager's position in the network, the other dots the employees.

Respondents are asked to reply based on their own perception of power distance and collaboration in their work group. Moreover, how they would prefer power distance and collaboration to be.

Before concluding the survey, respondents are asked to provide a number of master data, such as age, gender, hierarchical position and industry, to enable additional sub-group analysis across the data.

The questionnaire has been published using electronic newsletters, social networks, e.g. LinkedIn, XING, FACEBOOK and Twitter, often directed specifically towards special-interest groups in these networks. Additionally, the questionnaire has been distributed with assistance from helpful researchers and practitioners across the globe by means of direct mail or blog posting. Consequently, data must be viewed with the caveat that respondents must have access to the internet, are engaged in social media, and that each respondent has made an active choice to spend a few minutes answering the questionnaire. To allow for an adequate level of validity, only results with at least 20 responses in each data subgroup is presented. The total # of respondents is 836 as of January 2012.

Second part of this article

About the authors

Morten Cavling Arendrup holds a master degree from University of Copenhagen in Business Law, 1987. Morten is Senior Manager with the consultancy practice Innovisor, and has more than 20 years of working experience. Morten has six years of cross-cultural experience from living abroad.

Phone: +45 2075 6719
Address: Laurentsvej 16, 2880 Bagsvaerd, Denmark

Jeppe Vilstrup Hansgaard holds an MBA from Henley Business School, 2003 and a certificate in Strategic Decision & Risk Management from Stanford School of Professional Development. Jeppe is Partner in the consultancy practice Innovisor and has working experience from 20 different countries in 3 continents.

Phone: +45 2075 6712
Address: Laurentsvej 16, 2880 Bagsvaerd, Denmark


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