FAQ Culture for Business


Frequently Asked Questions for users of the KPMG-THT Culture for Business app.

The Culture for Business app as well as providing a basic introduction to cross culture, is intended to provide extensive practical advice for doing business and managing in different destination countries tailored to a user’s own orientation by linking to several thousand business tips.

Descriptive texts on the underlying cultural model within the app are necessarily limited by space and thus these FAQs are designed to help users who want to go deeper in their understanding.

You are also invited to consult our publications and other online materials for more in-depth explanations and analysis. (see www.thtconsulting.com)

1) What does my profile/score indicate?

How you have described yourself in terms of your values orientations on each particular cultural dimension.
The rating you have given yourself is reflective of how you see a situation involving opposing values.
The nearer you are to the extreme of one side or the other, the more you adhere to that orientation.

2) Why are the reference profiles of some countries similar on some dimensions, even though their countries are quite different?

First note that small spatial differences (as shown on the dimension bars are in fact (statistically) different.
And a similar score may result from or in differences in business practice. (see Q3 etc).
Generally, what is important is which side of the dimension are you to the reference country. Are you more rule based or more relationship based for example? This will give you the best way of comparing yourself with the other country.
Because the profile is based on the ‘Seven Dimensions of Culture’ (two for ‘time’ making a total of eight dimension bars) this helps distingish one country culture from another. So although some dimension scores may be close together/similar, there will be others where the scores differ. The graphic is drawn with the largest differences at the top which explains the greater cultural variety and should help you identify the business practices that differ most.

3) When is stereotyping ok? When is it not ok?

Everyone stereotypes. We like to think of people in terms of nationality, ethnicity, gender, etc.
However, it is important to understand that stereotypes become problems when they lead to cultural misunderstandings but they are helpful to capture an overview provided you remain aware that they are only stereotypes.
There is overlap between all cultures – such as the USA and France, yet there are characteristics the French do not share with the USA, etc.

4) Does a national profile/score indicate that everyone in that country is the same? My profile is not the same as my country stereotype?

No obviously, not everyone in a country is the same.
Profiles indicate the most frequent orientation from respondents selecting a particular answer or range of answers.
Some populations are more homogeneous than others.
The ‘acid test’ is not just accuracy of any profile, but how well the dimensions model helps you understand your own cultural orientations, how other cultures differ, and how well it informs the way you can do business more effectively.
Remember the database profiles are based on cultural behaviors to business and managing. So your experiences when spending time socially and interacting with other cultures (such as on vacation) may be different.

5) If my results indicate I am a universalist (rule based), does that mean I am a universalist in all situations?

No, but it does represent your tendency in the particular situation.
People may tend to hold values for rules in some situations, and relationships in other situations.
In most cases, a person whose score indicates rule based (universalism) will hold values tending toward universalism, even though he/she may respond more toward relationships (particularism) in some instances. What is important is to understand the concept (of each dimension) and how it relates to business practice.
Remember that dimensions represent dynamic tensions between opposites.

6) How does gender and age influence cultural orientations?

Gender and age are other sources of cultural diversity – see our publications and other apps planned for release later in the year.
Functional areas,, profession, location, and position in the organization are also influences and are explored in our Corporate Culture app.
Obviously a single orientation (for any one dimension) does not take account of age, gender, or diversity due to ethnicity for example – Our databases have extensive data on these details – see our web site and publications.

7) What are cultural dilemmas?

Cultural dilemmas are present when seemingly opposed values are held by stakeholders.
Cultural dilemmas have cultural values dimensions involved, such as achievement (what you do) versus ascription (who you are).
Dilemmas can be observed in situations such as meetings, supervision, negotiations, etc.

8) Are the results and recommendations presented in this app based on reliable and valid methods?

Yes, it is based on 20 years of cultural data collected from 120,000 plus managers in over 100 countries. And has been the subject of critical and extensive statistical testing and validation.
See our web site and publications some of which are specifically concerned with the reliability and validity of the methodologies and data analysis.
The shorter cultural survey within the app to determine your own orientation, is sufficient to give you an introduction to the concepts and for the system to select advice relevant to you. A more accurate and comprehensive personal profile is available from our Intercultural Awareness profiler (IAP).

9) Is it possible to change one’s cultural values over time?

Cultural values are formed from socialization and experiences in a person’s life.
Values are possible to change but it is not an easy process.
The degree of change is itself culturally specific. Cultures that are more universalistic and internally controlled change less (as might be expected). Where individuals change, it is often towards the center of the dimensions as they become more cognizant of cultural differences.
In general, a person will respond to cultural situations based on values, however, if the context does not accept those values, the person may be observed to publicly respond according to the context.
When relocating to another country/culture, there is a tension between acculturation (changing to fit in to the new culture) and retaining one’s own ethnic diversity.

10) How can I develop my inter/transcultural competence?

There are four steps involved in developing transcultural competence:-
Learn to recognize, respect, reconcile, and realize cultural differences. And therefore avoid embarrassment, accept other cultures right to self-determination, communicate more effectively, use cultural differences in business to competitive advantage, and finally implement and deliver the benefits of diversity.
See our ICP intercultural Competence Profiler which is designed specifically to facilitate such personal development.

11) What broadly are the effects of immigration on the validity of this model?

Immigration may influence results as people with different values may increase the frequency of those holding a particular orientation in a particular
country.
Note that this app, and our model generally are not about travel and tourism and any subjective impressions (or experiences) you have about other cultures,
but what cultural differences mean in terms of doing business in and with other cultures.
When experiencing a country as a tourist you may encounter people who do not hold values found in the corporate environment in that country.
Immigration highlights the different effects of more personal orientations (like how a cultural group celebrates a wedding or sports team to support)
compared with more business/corporate orientations (like managing diverse teams).
See our web site and publications concerning cultural convergence and acculturation.

12) Why do some of the country scores differ from scores given in other publications from THT such as in Riding the Waves of Culture?

It is important to compare like with like and what data is being displayed. Thus some of our publications and/or online tools show profiles or orientations based on a single multiple choice test, some are based on weighting responses to several multiple choice tests, some are based on positioning sliders across a scale etc etc.
Some orientations are shown as raw data, some are corrected for age distributions and gender for example.
The data shown in this app are selected to illustrate the concepts of management practices, meetings and negotiations. Although absolute profiles values as
shown in dimension graphics) may appear different to bar charts in some of our other publications, the relative differences will be more similar.
The ‘acid test’ is not just accuracy of any profile, but how well the dimensions model helps you understand your own cultural orientations, how other
cultures differ, and how well it informs the way you can do business more effectively.

13) What is the difference between ethnicity and cultural diversity?

Because these terms are used in many different ways in different situations, it is not entirely clear how ‘inter-ethnic’ differs from ‘cultural
difference’.
Ethnicity is, among other designations: a ‘source of cultural meaning’; a ‘principle for social differentiation’; an act of ‘communicating cultural
distinctiveness’; a ‘property of a social formation’; and an ‘aspect of interaction’.
However, it is commonly agreed that ethnicity is observable.
Diversity fundamentally means ‘variety’. Today, more than half of the US workforce now consists of minorities, immigrants and women. The challenge for
business leaders is to thus build and manage a diverse workforce now that employee diversity has evolved from sound public policy to a strategic business
imperative.

14) How have governments and corporations used the concept of ethnicity?

The concept of ethnicity has proven useful to domestic government agencies and international organizations trying to assist ethnic minorities in poly-ethnic societies to advance themselves. Rather than treating the inhabitants of a developing country as culturally homogenous, for instance, most international aid agencies now try to take into account the values, institutions, and customs of various ethnic groups, targeting relief or aid to their particular needs.
But why should companies concern themselves with diversity? Until recently, many managers answered this question with the assertion that discrimination is wrong, both legally and morally. But today managers are voicing a second notion that a more diverse workforce will increase organizational effectiveness. It will lift morale, bring greater access to segments of the marketplace, and enhance productivity. In short, they claim, diversity is good for business.

15) Are cultures converging as the world becomes more global?

Although mass media, transportation, and the global economy have brought many cultures into contact with others, most cultures of the world have retained their core values.
Corporations may influence how people in their organization behave in the workplace in different regions of the world.
However, national and regional cultures are slow to change. If there is change, it is more toward polarization of belief and values based on religion, economic development, and political philosophy.
McDonald’s may operate in many areas of the world, but what meaning locals give to eating at that fast food chain in influence by the local cultural values.

16) Is universalism(rule based) in one country the same as universalism in another? For example,the USA and Germany are both given as rule based (universalistic).?

The value for rules is essentially based on the same concept.
However, in some situations the “rules” may be observed differently.
In the USA lawyers are abundant and litigation is commonplace. In Germany, universalism is practiced somewhat differently.

17) Are cultures consistent across functions? For example, can a culture be rule based (universalistic) as far as production is concerned but relationship based (particularistic) in marketing?

Yes, functional units and professions such as engineering, accounting, and marketing can be observed to hold different, even competing values within the same corporation.
However, this is due mainly to employees who have opted in their career choices. Thus people with a stronger sense of standardization may become accountants because it satisfies their belief systems. Other candidates may opt to work in marketing where they can exploit their orientation to be more particular or externally controlled for example.

18) Do different academic disciplines view and explain culture and cultural differences in the same way?

The disciplines who study and write about culture can be observed to hold different cultural orientations which influence how they fundamentally see culture. For example, psychologists from the USA have individualistic values.
Research on motivation conducted by psychologists and management researchers has been found to reflect the bias of the country in which the studies were undertaken and nationality of the researchers. Individualism and achievement have often been cited as influential in motivation. However, in cultures holding communitarian and ascriptive values that may not be to the same degree.

19) Is it possible to have different ratings on a dimension due to my responses to different questions?

Yes. You may receive a different profile rating when responding to two different questions, even if the two questions are used to measure the same cultural dimension.

20) Why is understanding the culture of others important?

When conducting business in locations and situations different from your own culture, there are many potential areas for confusion, misunderstanding, and even conflict.
Having a fundamental understanding of other cultures provides you will the potential to adapt to culturally diverse locations and situations.
Ultimately, you need to avoid embarrassment, ensure cross-communication is effective, reconcile these differences and realize the business benefits of different points of view.

21) Is there a best answer to the cultural survey questions?

There are no best answers – people from different cultures have different views of the world.
Questions represent various stakeholder values orientations.
It is important to recognize and respect opposite values and your own position of cultural relativity.