What I’m reading 📖 this week: The Culture Map by Erin Meyer // Want to know how to decode how people think, lead, and get things done across cultures? Read on!
CULTURE VS. PERSONALITY
Is culture stills to influential in our individualised society? Shouldn't we see every person as having their own unique personality? This might seem very logical, but in her book The Culture Map Erin Meyer explains this doesn't mean learning about cultural contexts is unnecessary.
Our default mechanism will be to view others through our own cultural lens and to (mis)judge them accordingly. Erin experienced that the individualistic 'personality' point of view has kept scores of people assessing work situations in multi-cultural teams incorrectly.
WHO IS ERIN?
THE 8 SCALES FOR MAPPING
She uses this model to position cultures on. When you study or work in a multicultural environment checking the positions of the cultures you are engaging with against the position of your own culture will help to understand the differences better. Let's take a closer look at some of those different positionings.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN??
Communicating across cultures might not seem that different when you're just chit chatting with someone from a different country during holidays. But what happens when real work has to get done? The scale of Communicating show a positioning of cultures across 'explicit and low context' (tell it like it is) to 'implicit and high context' (read between the lines). Where do you think your culture is positioned?
Ok, so how does this work out in a real life work situation?
I live in The Netherlands and my culture is quite extreme on the 'explicit - low context' side of the scale. This really is recognisable for me. We tend to blurt out everything we think because wel feel it's much better than being implicit, which we often find vague and maybe even compare to lying.
I work internationally and encounter different cultures, although mostly European ones. But even these can be so different!
Let's take a look at Dutch versus British communication (who are a bit less explicit) with an example based on the Culture Map book:
If you are from one of these two cultures, you probably will understand this completely. What kind of communication misunderstandings could you think of when comparing your own culture to the Dutch or the British culture?
Where do you think your culture is on this scale? And what does mean in times of crises? Who decides which way to go? The way different countries are now handling their measurement to stop the spread of Covid-19 are different because their cultures of deciding are different.
The next culture scale is also very evident right now when look at the way countries try to lead the way during corona infused times.
LEADING THE WAY....
TIME IS MONEY?
I can surely tell you that Dutch culture doesn't allow people to be late. :)
COMPARE TO UNDERSTAND
To be able to understand the differences in various aspects within working cultures it helps to compare your culture with the culture(s) you have to collaborate with.
Where are the biggest differences on the scales? Think about what this means on how to adjust your communication, style of leading or project planning timelines. Below you can see the positioning of Dutch culture and Japanse culture.
In the book every scale is illustrated with real life examples and experiences. Erin has worked with so many different companies and cultures, she has a full storybook to share.
Erin also provides tips and advise for each scale on how to smoothen cultural differences from one end to the other end of the scale.
If you are working in an international environment or moved to another country for work, I can highly recommend reading Culture Map.
Not convinced yet: watch this short video of Erin talking about the need for mapping cultures and using this.