Eight Dimensions of Cultural Differences

20140428_1Another great post from Harvard Business Review. This one is by David Champion on the difficulty of keeping all of the differences between cultures in mind. Champion writes:

Erin Meyer, an American (from Minnesota) in Paris who coaches executives in managing cross-cultural career moves and teaches at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, has a theory about these malentendus. The problem, she argues, is that most people tend to emphasize just one or two, at most three, dimensions of cultural difference when it comes to parsing and predicting foreigners’ behavior.

But cultures differ along many more than three dimensions, so the more dimensions you consider, the less likely you are to trip up on a cultural paradox — you’ll be able to tell that incoming French manager to tone down critiques of his American subordinates before he upsets them.

The trouble, of course, is that it’s cognitively difficult for us to keep more than three dimensions of comparison in our head at once. What’s more, we tend to lose sight of the fact that relative, not absolute differences, are what matters.

Meyer created an eight dimension tool for us to better understand cultural differences–eight dimensions!

What are your thoughts? How can Meyer’s identification of eight dimensions of cultural difference help in negotiations and resolving conflict?

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