A Practical Roadmap for Common Intercultural Challenges
In the modern world, most of us frequently deal with people who have diverse ways of communicating—people whom we come across in every area of life, including our careers and social lives. Such diversity is often exciting and interesting, but do you sometimes feel puzzled during these encounters? Cultural differences can be a lot more complex than we realized!
Erin Meyer, a professor at INSEAD, is in my opinion the first researcher to have successfully created a framework with practical solutions for daily challenges in the culturally diverse business arena. Erin has taken all the valuable knowledge contributed by pioneering cross-cultural researchers, such as Edward T. Hall and Geert Hofstede, and added to it her own research. The cumulative result is her “eight-scale” tool, which supports greater understanding for intercultural communication.
The Eight-Scale Culture Map
Communicating: measures the degree to which a culture prefers communication that is simple and explicit (low-context) or more sophisticated and layered (high-context).
Evaluating: measures the preference for direct versus indirect criticism.
Persuading: measures the preference for sequential, specific and deductive thinking versus holistic, inductive thinking.
Leading: measures the degree of respect and deference shown to authority, on a spectrum ranging from egalitarian to hierarchical.
Deciding: explores the differences between consensual group agreements and the boss making top-down decisions.
Trusting: contrasts task-based, cognitive trust with relationship-based, emotional trust.
Disagreeing: measures how cultures view confrontation; whether people feel that disagreeing improves group dynamics or harms relations.
Scheduling: measures whether timetables and agendas are considered a suggestion or obligatory.
Each person can mark how their culture ranks on the eight scales, to obtain a map for comparing their culture to those of their business partners.
Erin Meyer’s online tool may be accessed at: http://erinmeyer.com/tools/
Here’s a nice article that Erin wrote, with an example comparing the Israeli and Russian cultures, that was published in the Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2014/05/navigating-the-cultural-minefield
Comparing Management Cultures: Israel vs. Russia
Israeli business culture- red \ Russian business culture- yellow
Tip from a Local Specialist
As an Israeli cross-cultural consultant, author and researcher, I am very happy that other researchers and authors are finally using Israel as an example (and not just the common examples of the U.S., China and Germany). However, a local specialist is necessary in any given culture for understanding the nuances.
For instance, here is my take, as an expert on Israeli business culture, on where Israelis weigh in on Meyer’s scale called “leading”:
Again, this scale gauges the degree of respect and deference shown to authority figures, on a spectrum ranging from egalitarian to hierarchical. Erin has marked Israel on the far left, indicating an egalitarian society with a small distance between boss and subordinate, communication often skipping hierarchical lines, and the best boss being a facilitator among equals.
However, as an Israeli business expert with vast experience working with and consulting for many other cultures, I can tell you that Israelis’ egalitarian- seeming style is somewhat misleading. Although employees typically communicate in a friendly, open manner with their boss, using a direct, informal style of speech and even giving negative feedback in front of others, at the end of the day the manager has the last, decisive word. In Israel, a goal-oriented culture, everyone knows that even if the communication style doesn’t adhere to hierarchical roles, only one captain leads the ship and makes the final decision; otherwise, everyone will drown.
For more information about working with Israelis, you can read the Amazon bestselling book “Israeli Business Culture” or contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.