Hofstede's six dimensions of national culture

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June 21, 2017

Professor Geert Hofstede, a Dutch social psychologist, conducted comprehensive studies of the way in which culture influences values in the workplace. Hofstede and his research team identified six dimensions of national culture, and by national culture it is meant "the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from another". Hofstede's six dimensions of national culture include:
1. Power distance;
2. Individualism;
3. Masculinity;
4. Uncertainty avoidance;
5. Long-term orientation; and
6. Indulgence.
Power distance has to do with how less powerful members of a country accept and expect the unequal distribution of power.
Individualism, as opposed to collectivism, describes how people accept in their social setting in a loose social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of themselves and their immediate family.
Masculinity, as opposed to femininity, refers to the preference by a community for achievement, heroism, assertiveness, material rewards and competitiveness, as opposed to cooperation, modesty, caring and the like.
Uncertainty avoidance refers to the discomfort the members of the community feel about not knowing facts or ambiguity.
Long term orientation refers to communities that tend to honor long standing traditions and norms and look suspiciously on change.
Indulgence versus restraint refers to a community's preference for letting members live free to gratify themselves and have fun.
Based upon these dimensions, Hofstede and his team were able to compare countries to each other, and proffer that the differences between countries might explain how workplace values might differ in each. For Hofstede, the idea is not to say which culture is better than the other but to simply explain how culture might shape behavior, and tendencies leading to certain outcomes in everyday life.
The Bahamas, at least in so far as any search I did is concerned, does not seem to have been examined against Hofstede's six dimensions of culture. Jamaica has, scoring a power distance of 45/100, individualism of 39/100, masculinity of 68/100 and uncertainty avoidance of 13/100. In other words, Jamaica's culture tends toward assertiveness and achievement, less so toward expecting equality of power between leaders and followers; even less so toward a "do it on your own" mind-set; and almost not at all toward tolerating uncertainty and ambiguity. Sounds about right to me.
I believe that a professional assessment of our culture might be useful and go a long way to provide insights into why some of our political, economic and social systems work as they do. If I had to guess at it, I would guess that our scores would make us a culture that largely expects unequal power distribution between leaders and followers (65/100); splits our preference for masculinity over femininity (50/100); leans in favor of individualism (60/100); marginally tolerates uncertainty and ambiguity (55/100); tends to adhere to longstanding traditions and customs while slow to embrace chance (55/100); and is a marginally non-indulgent group (45/100). If my guess is correct, it might explain why strong leaders have been able to take hold in the country for such a long time, but why now that type of leadership is experiencing to pushback; it might explain why we tend to be so laidback in our approach to tackling problems and why high achievement is not a high priority in our society at large; it might explain why, for so long, we were content to live with whatever information the powerful and the rich pushed out, without challenging the same or demanding more; and it might explain why we tend toward religious conservatism but, within our closest friends, tend toward moral liberalism.
Do not be mistaken, what is true of our culture as a whole need not be true of any individual or set of individuals within it. Put another way, any number of us might deviate from what might be described as the norms for us as a culture, but the general observation of our collective behavior might well be observed. To the extent that this is so, it could offer leaders of organizations in the nation, public and private, insights that might help them to improve outcomes in ways unheard of. This much is true, the haddock approach often now taken to addressing organizational and national issues seems woefully inadequate, and might be better informed by good research and study. Perhaps in this new era of national governance, this is what we might get.

o Zhivargo Laing is a Bahamian economic consultant and former Cabinet minister who represented the Marco City constituency in the House of Assembly.

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News date : 06/21/2017    Category : Opinion, Nassau Guardian Stories

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