Erin Meyer’s Assessment Tool

Erin Meyer, the author of The Culture Map and “Navigating the Cultural Minefield” , had identified eight dimensions to capture the difference between various cultures.  Using her experience with these techniques, she has created an assessment tool for HBR.  As I am born and brought up in India and have significant work experience in Canada, I decided to take the test twice, by putting the same answers and different nationalities.  And the comparison is definitely something to talk about.  I will be evaluating all the eight dimensions in sequence.

Communicating:  This measures the degree to which a culture prefers low- or high- context communication.  In low-context communication cultures, such as in Germany and the Netherlands, the communication is precise, simple, and explicit.  Here, repetition and written communication are appreciated for the sake or clarity.  In high-context communication cultures – such as in China, India, and France – communication is sophisticated, nuanced, and layered.  Here, reading in between the lines is expected.  Less is put in writing and more is left to interpretation. 

Canadian culture is the extreme end of low-context scale, whereas Indian culture towards the high-context scale.  And I am placed right in the middle of the scale. And yes, I have seen this transition in me, as I feel I am no longer as ‘wordy’ as I once used to be.  Now, I prefer to convey the message in a little words as possible.

Evaluating:  This measures the relative preference for direct versus indirect criticism.  For example, French are high-content communicators as compared to American, but are more direct in their negative feedback.

Canadian cultures stand right in the middle on this scale, whereas Indian culture is slightly more towards indirect negative feedback.  As far as I am am concerned, I am strongly leaning towards direct negative feedback.  I am not sure where this influence came from.  It could very well be from my clinical background, where a direct word of caution is a norm.  Also, it could because of the fact that Indian culture varies a lot; and I am influence from a sub-culture that prefers direct negative feedback.

Persuading:  This dimension measures principles-first versus applications-first, also known as deductive versus inductive reasoning.  Typically, people of Germanic and Southern European cultures find it more persuasive to lay out generally accepted principles before presenting an opinion or making a statement.  In contrast, American and British managers begin with opinions or factual observations, and adding concepts later if deemed necessary.

Canadian culture, like that of America or Britain, lays strong emphasis on applications first.  In contrast, there is no mention of Indian approach, which means they follow a holistic approach.  I am myself place in the middle of the scale, from which I infer that mine would be typically Indian approach.  Though I must add that I haven’t paid much attention to  my own approach during routine conversation. 

Leading:  This scale measures the degree of respect and deference shown to authority figures, where the spectrum is between egalitarian and the hierarchical.  Those from Scandinavian countries and Israel fall into the egalitarian category, where those from China, Russia, Nigeria, and Japan are into hierarchical category.

Canadian culture leans towards egalitarian, where as Indian cultural is strongly hierarchical.  I am place right in the middle of the scale.  I believe this is how I have been, as far back as I can remember about myself.  And Canadian environment gave me comfort, and an opportunity to be myself.  I believe that in hierarchical atmosphere, the purpose or mission is lost in honouring the hierarchy. 

Deciding:  Contrary to popular perceptions, egalitarian cultures need not necessarily be consensual and most hierarchical one need not believe in top-down decision making.  For example, Japanese culture is hierarchical, but a firm believer in consensual culture.  Similarly, Germans are more hierarchical than Americans, but are more likely to take group discussions. 

Canadian culture straddles somewhere in the middle, and as expected, Indian culture strongly prefers top-down decision making.  And my approach mimics that of Canadian culture.  I believe my approached changed towards consensual after working in Canadian environment.

Trusting:  This scale balances task-based trust with relationship-based trust.  In a task-based culture, such as the United States, the UK, or Germany, trust is built through work.  However, in relationship-based societies, such as in Brazil, China, or India, trust is built by personal and affective connections. 

Canadian culture is at the extreme end of task-based trust, whereas Indian culture is strongly relationship based.  I myself have a strong tendency towards being task-based, but not as strong as Canadians in general.  I believe, being a person of technical background, I was always had leaning towards task-based trust.  They may have been reinforced further upon exposure to Canadian work environment.

Disagreeing:  Everybody agrees that a degree of disagreement or confrontation is healthy.  Typically, in countries like Indonesia, Japan, and Thailand, public airing of disagreement is considered something undesirable.  In contrast, in Germany, France, and the Netherlands, people are quite comfortable with it.  This dimension measure how an individual views confrontation.  This does not mean that the person himself is confrontationist.  It just shows how one feels it is likely to improve group dynamics or to harm relationship within a team.

In Canadian culture, the opinion is somewhere in between, whereas in Indian culture there is a tendency to lean towards non-confrontation.  I am a bit surprised here as I was expecting Canadians to be extremely non-confrontationist, as they are typically politically correct.  Similarly, I was expecting Indians to be extremely confrontationist, as they are quite argumentative.  But, being hierarchical and believers in top-down approach, it makes them non-confrontationist in work environment.  As for myself, there are no surprises as I am leaning towards confrontationist attitude.  I prefer to have thorough brainstorming before any decision is made, and generally an open discussion helps build trust and understanding.

Scheduling:  All business follow as schedule, but in countries like India, Brazil, and Italy, people treat a schedule like a suggestion.  In contrast, in Switzerland, Germany, and the U.S., people stick to the plan.  This scale measures you view of time as linear or flexible, depending on how much value you place on structure or adaptability. 

In Canadian culture, the norm is strongly suggestive of linear, where as in Indian culture it is extremely flexible.  As far as I am concerned, I am more linear than an average Canadian.  I think this is primarily because of how I am.  I was like that even when I was in Indian environment.                           


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