I find few things more fascinating to study than the differences (and similarities) among the people of the world. My own conclusion after I visited with entrepreneurs and others around the globe is that the main thing they shared in common was their desire to make a better life for their kids. And I am generally of the school that “we are all pretty much alike.”
 
At the same time, there are undeniable cultural differences around the world. You can imagine IBM expanding internationally in the 1960s, trying to figure out how to recruit, select, manage, and motivate people from very different backgrounds. So they hired mechanical engineer turned social psychologist Geert Hofstede to study the differences in people from the various nations. He found 5 major dimensions on which people varied: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. femininity, and long-term vs. short-term orientation. Then he wrote many papers and books about all his findings, becoming one of the most cited authors in the social sciences.
 
His concluding tome is Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations across Nations (Second Edition, Sage Publications, 2001). This great book delves into each of the 5 dimensions, provides data on the nations of the world and how their residents vary on those dimensions, and explores the behavioral implications and how they affect organizations. 
 
The book contains a wealth of data and tables which goes deeper under the surface, looking at such things as the ratio of Catholics to Protestants, the reluctance of employees to disagree with their bosses, paying bills fast vs. slow, optimism vs. pessimism about the future, and the impact of economic development levels on the cultural dimensions. The book is as full of verbal descriptions of these ideas and the resultant behaviors as it is full of numbers. I love both.
 
There have been many books written about culture differences but few are as full of hard data and fascinating background as this one. If you are actively transacting (money, products, services, or ideas) with the world, or just want to understand how its people think and act, I highly recommend Culture’s Consequences.

   

    

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