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Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business

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International management guru, Fons Trompenaar's best-selling Riding the Waves of Culture has become an essential guide for managers and trainers in multinational organizations, as well as anyone who conducts business overseas. This thoroughly revised, second edition, updated to include new case histories and fresh research findings, uses country-by-country graphs, example International management guru, Fons Trompenaar's best-selling Riding the Waves of Culture has become an essential guide for managers and trainers in multinational organizations, as well as anyone who conducts business overseas. This thoroughly revised, second edition, updated to include new case histories and fresh research findings, uses country-by-country graphs, examples, and other comparisons to clearly illustrate how different cultures respond to different management approaches; provides case histories to show how managers have successfully anticipated and mediated difficult and potentially costly dilemmas; and shows how managers can prepare their organizations for the process of internationalization through specific points of intervention.


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International management guru, Fons Trompenaar's best-selling Riding the Waves of Culture has become an essential guide for managers and trainers in multinational organizations, as well as anyone who conducts business overseas. This thoroughly revised, second edition, updated to include new case histories and fresh research findings, uses country-by-country graphs, example International management guru, Fons Trompenaar's best-selling Riding the Waves of Culture has become an essential guide for managers and trainers in multinational organizations, as well as anyone who conducts business overseas. This thoroughly revised, second edition, updated to include new case histories and fresh research findings, uses country-by-country graphs, examples, and other comparisons to clearly illustrate how different cultures respond to different management approaches; provides case histories to show how managers have successfully anticipated and mediated difficult and potentially costly dilemmas; and shows how managers can prepare their organizations for the process of internationalization through specific points of intervention.

30 review for Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steve Whiting

    The authors have collected analysed data from 50+ nationalities along 7 "dimensions" of thought & behaviour, and their findings are presented in easily digestible form here, using a "case study" of an American HR officer trying to understand why an American-style bonus programme isn't received favourably in other parts of the world. A lot of the insight and advice seems believable, and about what you would expect: maybe we've all become a bit more attuned to national characteristics in the nearly The authors have collected analysed data from 50+ nationalities along 7 "dimensions" of thought & behaviour, and their findings are presented in easily digestible form here, using a "case study" of an American HR officer trying to understand why an American-style bonus programme isn't received favourably in other parts of the world. A lot of the insight and advice seems believable, and about what you would expect: maybe we've all become a bit more attuned to national characteristics in the nearly-20 years since the book was written, or maybe because their analysis seems to agree with common stereotypes of various nationalities. The first dozen chapters cover all their analysis, and the last couple are a fairly superficial race through a couple of other examples - post-apartheid South Africa and gender/ethnic differences in an American HR conference. All of these are pretty interesting and well argued. In between, there are two pretty poor chapters that summarise the first portiion of the book and then make some vague prognistication over where this may lead in terms on international understanding. Overall, pretty good, but I have a couple of caveats. 1) most of the coverage is superficially about 50+ countries, but it only covers about a dozen in any more depth; 2) I'm slightly nervous about them drawing conclusions from their database, which they trumpet as holding 30,000 sets of responses - but which is only an average of ~600 per country, mostly taken from 30 large companies, which seems like an awfully small sample size from which to draw such sweeping conclusions.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Becky Graham

    I understand the point of this book, but I think this whole concept of grouping all members of a specific culture into one group just leads to unnecessary stereotyping. This book is useful in identifying and navigating the differences on an individual level with the various people you may need to work professionally with - globally or just within your local office - but "all" Chinese/Danish/Italian/etc. workers do not think the same way any more than all American workers think the same way - or I understand the point of this book, but I think this whole concept of grouping all members of a specific culture into one group just leads to unnecessary stereotyping. This book is useful in identifying and navigating the differences on an individual level with the various people you may need to work professionally with - globally or just within your local office - but "all" Chinese/Danish/Italian/etc. workers do not think the same way any more than all American workers think the same way - or "all" of any group, for that matter.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bart Breen

    This is a Book that will Expand your Horizons This book was used as the core text in a Master Level course I took in Global Leadership. 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 des This is a Book that will Expand your Horizons This book was used as the core text in a Master Level course I took in Global Leadership. 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. Bart Breen

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paul Whitla

    Like his fellow Dutchman Geert Hofstede, Trompenaars has dedicated his life to understanding differences in national cultures as they impact the workplace. In this short book Trompenaars presents a 7-dimension classification of culture similar in ways to that of Hofstede’s better known and more widely accepted 4-dimension model. While there are significant similarities between the two models including over dimensions such as ‘the group and the individual’ and ‘how we accord status’ (Hofstede’s p Like his fellow Dutchman Geert Hofstede, Trompenaars has dedicated his life to understanding differences in national cultures as they impact the workplace. In this short book Trompenaars presents a 7-dimension classification of culture similar in ways to that of Hofstede’s better known and more widely accepted 4-dimension model. While there are significant similarities between the two models including over dimensions such as ‘the group and the individual’ and ‘how we accord status’ (Hofstede’s power distance), there are several distinct elements of the Trompenaars model which are unrecognised by Hofstede including cultures’ relationships with time and with nature. The book begins by discussing where culture comes from and makes some interesting points regarding the learned nature of culture and how often it may be a response to a particular natural environment. Trompenaars nicely differentiates ‘mores’ as how one should behave in a society versus values which is how one aspires or desires to behave. The point is made that culture can be seen as a ‘normal distribution’ rather than a single measure which leads to stereo-typing. The second chapter is self-explanatory under the title ‘the one best way of organising does not exist’, Trompenaars calls into question particularly American management academics who present a single best-approach to managing which he points out does not work in every culture. Chapters 4-10 go through each of the seven dimensions of culture: 4. Relationships and rules The extent to which cultures follow universal rules versus particular interpretations of rules. The extent to which relationships determine actions rather than rules. The author presents his famous example of whether people would report a friend who had knocked down a pedestrian (universalist) cultures versus those who would remain silent over the issue (particular cultures). The point is made that in particularist cultures there is a much greater need to extend the ‘getting to know you’ period for successful business relationships to be fostered. 5. The group and the individual Similar to Hofstede’s collectivist-individual dimension. 6. Feelings and relationships The difference here is between affective versus neutral cultures. This is probably more familiarly known as high versus low context societies. Despite the importance of this issue to inter-cultural communication there is no direct mention of this issue in Hofstede’s work. Good examples are provided of how this would influence both management and the formation of business deals in each of the cultures. 7. How far we get involved One of the more interesting chapters in the book this dimension differentiates ‘specific’ and ‘diffuse’ cultures. This dimension reflects the extent to which relationships made at work extend into other areas of social contact. Whether for example a person’s manager at work would automatically be accorded equal respect outside of the workplace environment or not. In specific cultures business relationships can be easy to form but don’t necessarily spread into other areas. On the other hand in diffuse relationships making friends can be seen as harder but when they are established they extend into all areas of life. From my own experiences in Europe, the U.S. and Asia I have come across difficulties in understanding this dimension a number of times. As an example the author suggests that in a ‘particularist’ culture such as the U.S. although you know somebody and are friendly in a particular situation that friendship doesn’t necessarily extend into other areas. 8. How we accord status Similar to Hofstede’s power distance dimension. Trompenaars differentiates between ascribed versus achieved status. Points out that in ascriptive cultures the word of an employee in a contract negotiation may not be binding until it has been passed up the chain whereas achievement based cultures normally see any commitment as binding. 9. How we manage time Another of the interesting chapters differentiating between cultures with either sequential or synchronic views of time. Having stayed in the Philippines for many months I can immediately recognise the synchronous view as being very different from my own sequential culture and fully understand the author’s comments on how frustration can arise when business dealings are conducted between the two cultures. The British belief in queuing is an extreme example of sequential thought and the author provides some excellent examples of how serving people in a delicatessen would differ in the two cultures. Many examples of the impact of time orientation on management are raised and again it is interesting to note that this dimension is absent from Hofstede’s original model (although perhaps included under his later addition of ‘long-term orientation). 10. How we relate to nature The final dimension draws a distinction between cultures that either go against or go with nature. Basically this impacts the extent to which individuals and firms think that they can dictate their own environment. The next chapter then goes on to describe four different types of corporate cultures (the family, the Eiffel tower, the guided missile and the incubator). Unfortunately this section of the book is less than convincing and it is unclear at times how this formulation was developed an indeed the links between the dimensions of culture and the organisational types. The chapter concludes with an attempt to assign different countries to the different organisational types but this too is unconvincing. There is no evidence for example of the cultural clustering found by Ronen or other cross-cultural researchers. The concluding chapter ‘towards international and transnational management’ looks at issues of problems for the cross-cultural manager and issues of centralisation or decentralisation. Suggests that the modern role of the HQ in a transnational has evolved from a policeman into that of a consultant. As an example Trompenaars suggests national subsidiaries be given freedom to prioritise their own employment values. The book has much to commend it. As mentioned the sections on time and cultures and levels of involvement are well worth re-reading. There are scores of good examples and it is clear that the author has worked with and in a wide range of cultures. However, equally there are a number of significant drawbacks to the book. First with the dimensions themselves it is unclear that they are mutually exclusive and although correlations between the dimensions between them are never identified. The book is supposedly based on the Trompenaars data bank which is outlined in the book’s Appendix but this data bank is questionable and the specific procedures used to develop the dimensions are unspecified. Secondly the book is carried along on the back of a running case study of Mr Johnson and MCC a fictional organisation. This case study never really adds much and is more of a distraction. Another recurring feature of the book are charts and tables that present a single question to represent each of the dimensions and then the results for each country. Unfortunately the questions do not seem to tie up directly in every case with the dimension being presented and are in some instances themselves culturally loaded. All of this again calls into question the overall credibility of the more interesting discussion. So a good book, short but a welcome addition to the dominant model of Hofstede’s. Not without its faults but thought-provoking in many ways.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nick Perkins

    Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner have made a career out of studying cultural tendencies of 50+ different countries, and they present their findings here. Does Japan follow a universalist (rule-following) culture, or a particularist (people-oriented) culture? The answers to questions like these help managers work with global affiliates, win contract bids, and solidify relationships. The authors present the information in an understandable (if somewhat dense) fashion. However, trying to read the diag Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner have made a career out of studying cultural tendencies of 50+ different countries, and they present their findings here. Does Japan follow a universalist (rule-following) culture, or a particularist (people-oriented) culture? The answers to questions like these help managers work with global affiliates, win contract bids, and solidify relationships. The authors present the information in an understandable (if somewhat dense) fashion. However, trying to read the diagrams is analogous to decoding hieroglyphics. Overall, a helpful read for anyone involved with or interested in a global business. Not especially helpful for learning about culture outside the corporate world.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elvin P. Aliyev

    Completely changed my understanding of management of diversity in a cultural context. I find the examples he provided in this book to be very practical to understanding the nuances of national, regional and cultural dimensions. He also explores various management styles that could be suitable to various cultures.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ivy Kwan

    The cultural dimensions has provided me with a good understanding of working in a highly diverse organisation and provided me with the insights of how to managed teams with diverse background and most importantly how to effectively produces the desired outcome and manage cultural tensions.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mackel

    For the entrepreneur and manager working with cross cultural teams this book is a must read. It offers really great insights on culture and helps you put out some of the assumptions and stereotypes we tend to form.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Randolph Breschini

    A pretty intense book about cultures in global businesses...I found myself skimming rather than intensely reading...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Davide Severini

    I've read this book for academic purposes. The book covers Trompenaar's model of cultural dimensions, starting from a general point of view and then looking from a business perspective. The reading process was feasible, however, it gets hard because of the several examples he's giving. I recommend this book to everyone (not only those in the business field) who are constantly in contact with people from other cultures. I've read this book for academic purposes. The book covers Trompenaar's model of cultural dimensions, starting from a general point of view and then looking from a business perspective. The reading process was feasible, however, it gets hard because of the several examples he's giving. I recommend this book to everyone (not only those in the business field) who are constantly in contact with people from other cultures.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    3.5 stars, maybe. There were a handful of potentially useful (if very broad) heuristics in here, but a good amount of the cultural commentary in the original chapters felt a bit dated. The latter chapters also felt a bit tacked-on, as a response to feedback about specificity in the earlier half of the book, I presume.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Gert

    A good book full of interesting ideas, but could've been written in half of the pages. Poor readability and poor graphics do not contribute much. A good book full of interesting ideas, but could've been written in half of the pages. Poor readability and poor graphics do not contribute much.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    Another must read for anyone seeking to understand cultural context, differences and how to work this out.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David

    I still think about culture and use these models...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ariel Littlemermaid

    Interesting analysis and supporting examples/ statistics, but if you look at it critically then it's all built upon dichotomies, eg. East-West, black-white, etc. Interesting analysis and supporting examples/ statistics, but if you look at it critically then it's all built upon dichotomies, eg. East-West, black-white, etc.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    This was really interesting -- I ran out of time b/f B-school but plan on picking it up again. Lots of stats re. how different people from difference countries operate. Lots of "aha's". This was really interesting -- I ran out of time b/f B-school but plan on picking it up again. Lots of stats re. how different people from difference countries operate. Lots of "aha's".

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    Very interesting look at how culture affects how business is done. While pointing out the differences, the author explains how those can be strengths that can complement each other.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    The exploration of business overseas is the purpose of this book. Feels a bit outdated and I felt the content was more common sense than anything. Information and content is good.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Roger Wood

    I read this book more than 15years ago after having met the author. He was remarkable in his insights into why various cultures think the way they do, and how that impacts business.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn

  21. 4 out of 5

    Logan Rishaw

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joelle

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mary Holsclaw

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mr A Dasan

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rohan Mhatre

  26. 5 out of 5

    Autumn Hollis

  27. 5 out of 5

    Douglas

  28. 4 out of 5

    Raharja

  29. 4 out of 5

    Geffrey van der Bos

  30. 4 out of 5

    Matt Walker

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