Hofstede’s National Culture Model
The term organizational culture did not emerge in the literature until the late 1970s and represents a relatively new addition that has gained a lot of attention since its introduction. Hofstede (1990) poses a series of questions that are directed towards organizational culture:
First, can organizational cultures be “measured” quantitatively, on the basis of answers of organizational members to written questions, or can they only be described qualitatively?
Second, if organizational cultures can be measured in this way, which operationalizable and independent dimensions can be used to measure them, and how do these dimensions relate to what is known about organizations from existing theory and research?
Third, to what extent can measurable differences among the cultures of different organizations be attributed to unique features of the organization in question, such as its history or the personality of its founder?
The quantitative measures of the cultures of the twenty units in the research, aggregated at the unit level, showed that a large part of the differences among these twenty units could be explained by six factors, related to established concepts from organizational sociology, that measured the organizational cultures on six independent dimensions (Hofstede, Neuijen, Ohayv, & Sanders, 1990).
Since Hofstede and his team publish their ground breaking article, it gained a lot of traction in the literature. His original research included four dimension and others were added later. These dimensions represent various poles in which there can different points on the spectrum identified. These include (McSweeney, 2002):
Power Distance: ‘the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) expect and accept that power is distributed unequally’
Uncertainty Avoidance: ‘intolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity’
Individualism vs. Collectivism: ‘the extent to which individuals are integrated into groups’
Masculinity vs. Femininity ‘assertiveness and competitiveness vs. modesty and caring’
The role of culture was considered to be something of “software of the mind” that operates subjectively and unconsciously. Despite the models popularity, there are many criticisms that have been made of the model. One is that there are typically many subcultures present in a country that would have different characteristics when compared to the primary culture (McSweeney, 2002).
Figure 1 – Brazil’s Cultural Dimensions (The Hofstede Centre, N.d.)
The power distance index for Brazil is fairly high when compared to Western Cultures which stems from a large amount of inequality and a fairly strict hierarchy structure when it comes to decision making in families and in other groups. By contrast, the U.S. culture is more of an egalitarian culture than a hierarchical one. The egalitarian perspective is found in most of the Western world.
By contrast to the egalitarian perspective, the Brazilian culture has an organizational structure is more hierarchical. The uncertainty avoidance index score the mainstream culture is high which means that the population typically does not like risk and uncertainty. This measure considers the amount of risk that an individual or community would be willing to take. It is likely that Brazilian individuals would be less likely to accept risk in their decision making processes.
Another cultural dimension is long-term orientation. The Brazilian culture has a moderate amount of long-term orientation which is portrayed by a fairly high to moderate indulgence rating. They are also fairly low in pragmatism which can also be considered a long-term orientation measure. By contrast, the U.S. mainstream culture rates the lowest in this measure than any other country. So when compared to the U.S., the Brazilian culture would be more long-term oriented but less so than other Eastern cultures.
Saudi Arabia and France
Hofstede’s model is often used to compare two different cultures so that someone can get a quick feel for the cultural differences found in these two countries. Using Hofstede’s cultural dimensions model comparisons the differences in cultures and the similarities can be quickly visualized. In this example, the two cultures have roughly equal preferences for uncertainty avoidance and indulgence. However, they are vastly separated in power distance, individualism, and pragmatism. The biggest difference in the two cultures will stem from the fact that France is an extremely individualistic nation while Saudi Arabia represents a more collectivist culture.
Figure 1 – Hofstede Model (The Hofstede Centre, N.d.)
Hofstede first developed his cultural model with four factors and later expanded it to include pragmatism and indulgence. There are many criticisms that can be made of this model and the model is most likely far from perfect. However, it does seem to have value in the sense that it can help people get a feel for different cultural tendencies that one might find in a country’s culture. The tendencies will not apply to all the members, but there would be a high probability of finding them more often in that country. The model can be used to prepare travelers, business people, or many other groups to what they might find in the culture of another country.
Hofstede, G., Neuijen, B., Ohayv, D., & Sanders, G. (1990). Measuring Organizational Cultures: A Qualitative and Quantitative Study across Twenty Cases. Administrative Sciences Quarterly, 286-316.
McSweeney, B. (2002). Hofstede’s model of national cultural differences and their consequences: A triumph of faith – a failure of analysis. Human Relations, 89-118.
The Hofstede Centre. (N.d.). What about Brazil? Retrieved from The Hofstede Centre: http://geert-hofstede.com/brazil.html
The Hofstede Centre. (N.d.). What about Saudi Arabia? Retrieved from The Hofstede Centre.
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