Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business (Anglais) Relié – 15 septembre 1997
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L'objectif de ce livre est donc de montrer qu'il n'existe pas un seul modèle de management. L'auteur, après avoir étudié des entreprises dans plus de cinquante pays, explore les limites culturelles auxquelles est confrontée toute entreprise qui désire développer des affaires avec une autre entreprise dans un autre pays. Il met ainsi en évidence quatre grands types de management qui ont chacun leurs inconvénients mais surtout leurs avantages. La solution optimale serait donc, selon l'auteur, de permettre à toute entreprise de tirer partie des avantages de chacun de ces quatre modèles. C'est ce qu'il appelle "l'organisation transnationale". -- Idées clés, par Business Digest --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
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It is an easy reading and pleasant. A must in the library of any global manager.
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It frankly is one of the best books I have ever read which surprises me even, given that it was used in this context from a primarily academic point of view. I did not expect this book to be as readable and as practical as I found it to be.
First, it's important to note the book's own disclaimer from the earliest pages. This is not a book that assumes nor is it designed to explain to the reader how other culture's think and function to where a reader will come away with a complete grasp of other cultures. Frankly, that is a nearly impossible task. If you're looking for a book on cultural etiquette that will catalog and recount all the possible missteps and misunderstandings that can occur when different cultures meet, this is not your book.
What this book does is break cultural elements into general categories and through the use of an extensive database of about 50,000 managers from around the world, it demonstrates how different cultures, defined primarily by national boundaries, approach universal challenges and compares them by use of a sliding scale between two identified extremes.
This is done for 7 different cultural elements. An example and the first element explored, would be the tendency toward Universalism versus Particularism. Universalism is the tendency of people within a specific culture to appeal to concepts of social justice, absolute values or the like and guide their individual decisions on that basis. This is a fairly high tendency with the United States for example. Particularism, on the other hand, is the tendency to define such choices more on the basis of one's relationship to the people involved rather than principles that apply in every situation. Russia and Venezuela (interestingly enough, both nations which seem perpetually at odds with the US and criticized by Americans for being "corrupt") are examples of nations that score higher in this realm.
While it can be a little dry to read through these elements, the authors do a good job of balancing data and theory with illustrations from real life and a continuing scenario that is returned to several times illustrating these elements in the context of a multi-national firm's managers meeting.
The primary value of this book for me has been the ability to suspend and step outside of my own biases, prejudices and stereotypes and from a more objective position, see and understand how different cultures approach situations. When that can be achieved then there is a better chance of coming up with a solution that will make sense and achieve a desired end, than when the noise common to cross-cultural or multi-cultural situations is left to reign free.
The authors are European and management consultants in the field. As a revision to a prior edition, this most recent book has expanded the value of the base concepts by including 2 additional chapters. One looks at South Africa which is a case study of multiculturalism within a single nation and it helps to identify what is no doubt true in other nations as well, namely that even with the measurements and objective evaluations of the earlier chapters, it is still important to do your homework and recognize that cultural nuances exist within the country by other factors such as ethnic group.
Illustrating this point even further is the final chapter which focuses upon the differences found within management task roles in the same firm and the same country. This is a little anticlimatic in some ways as it serves to diminish the value of the generalizations drawn earlier in the book, but it does serve to reinforce the warning of assuming too high a level of familiarity and thus moving from confidence into arrogance.
This book should be required reading not only for the business community moving toward multi-nationalism or transnationalism, but also for diplomatic personnel, world travellers or anyone wanting to raise their cultural IQ and sensitivity to different situations.
5 Stars. Buy this one to keep in your professional reference library.
"Riding the Waves of Culture" is one of the well-known books on cultural dimensions (the most famous other one being the work of Geert Hofstede Cultures and Organizations: Software for the Mind, Third Edition). Trompenaars has collected a enormous amount of cultural survey results from many different countries. In this book, he shares some of the questions and the conclusions he drew based on the answers. Based on these survey results, he created seven cultural dimensions as a way to think about different cultural differences.
The book consists of 15 chapters. The three chapters provide an introduction. The next even chapters cover the seven cultural dimensions. Chapter 11-13 discuss organizations, organizational cultures and ways to reconcile cultural differences. The last two chapters (which I found least interesting) look at cultural differences within a country, one in South Africa and one in the US.
One of the key themes throughout Trompenaars book is that different management techniques should depend on the different cultures and that there are no universal management techniques (argument starting in chapter 2). Though, I do not disagree with his perspective, I do find it somewhat simplistic. For example, he gives the example that individual rewards will work well in a US or North European culture, but wouldn't work in a more collective (he calls communitatian) culture. That while at the moment there is a lot of criticism that individual rewards do not work well in US/North Europe (e.g. the work of Dan Pink Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us) and, on the other hand, I've seen individual rewards thrive in India/China (thrive as being popular, not as being working) which are countries which, according to their culture, they shouldn't work at all. Trompenaars is careful drawing too big conclusions though and talks about countries 'dancing on the dimensions' which allows him to withdraw from making any harsh conclusions :)
Chapter 4-10 relate to the seven cultural dimensions that Trompenaars defined, they are: Universalism vs particularism, individualism vs communitarianism, neutral vs emotional, specific vs diffuse, achievement vs ascription, attitudes to time, and attitudes to the environment. Each chapter discusses the dimensions and covers some of the specific questions that were asked during his survey. Each chapter ends advise on how to deal with the opposite dimensions' culture.
Another theme in this book is the need for reconciling cultures. The need for not taking one extreme perspective and yet not losing your own culture. The need to understanding the others culture and taking that into account when working with them (especially chapter 12-13). I do like this approach, though at times I felt the book was a little vague and abstract, even with the concrete questions it posed.
All in all, Riding the Waves of Culture is a good book, but it wasn't an exceptional book. For me, I had trouble getting through it and I guess that it had to do with the writing style. At times it was hard to follow and contained too many words. Rating-wise, I was doubting between a 4 stars (a really good book) and 3 stars (a book that covers the topic, but wasn't exceptional) and decided to go with 3 stars. The main reason for that was the writing and the trouble I had getting through the book. If you look for *one* book to read on cultural differences, this is not the one. If you are very interested in knowing a lot about cultures, then this is a must read.
It will explain how we look at the world differently based on our cultures. Words fail me.
If your work involves people from multiple countries and multiple cultures, this book is required reading. If your work involves understanding culture at all, it is definitely worth a quick read.
Authors Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner share their cultural insights based on broad research - 30,000 interviews and questionnaires so far - which puts this work on solid ground. They distinguish culture along a number of interesting axes, including relationships and rules, group versus individual, feelings, personal Involvement, status, time, inner directed versus outer directed, and national versus corporate culture.
The writing, while not exciting, is clear. And the statistical graphics further clarify and simplify many of the authors' points.
On a personal note, whenever the book authors ascribed a particular cultural aspect to Americans, I naturally tried to locate myself on the USA part of the graph. The surprising part was that although I was often squarely in the "right" place, this was not the case a good amount of the time.
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