2018.04.23 The US DK Culture Gap

When doing business in a foreign culture, some things are just different.

Together with McKinsey Consulting, professor at Insead Business School Erin Meyer has found that there are eight dimensions where corporate business cultures differ across the globe.

Meyer's very accessible book The Culture Map, Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business contains information for many countries, but my focus is naturally USA and Denmark.

The illustration shows the dimensions and how Denmark and USA are located.

Click on the picture to get a larger format and the back arrow will get you back to this post.

The eight dimensions are:

  • Low vs High context in Communication
  • Direct vs Indirect negative Feedback
  • Principle vs Application based Persuasion
  • Egalitarian vs Hierarchical Leadership style
  • Consensual vs Top Down Decision making
  • Task based vs Relationship based Trust
  • Confrontational vs Non-confrontational Disagreement
  • Linear vs Flexible Time perspective

As you can see on the illustration, for many dimensions there is plenty of space to the left or right of the zigzag lines. This space is reserved for countries who are even more "extreme" than USA or Denmark.

Over the next posts I will dig into the details but first let me share two caveats:

No 1 is that California is not USA; California is California. If you are in Silicon Valley with a small startup, working with people from all over the world, the company culture may not be totally similar to what Meyer and McKinsey found for USA. They asked people from American companies that hire McKinsey or send their managers to Insead and my totally biased guess is that small startups don't do that.

No 2 is that the same applies for Denmark. If you are the entrepreneur type, perhaps you don't function exactly like they do in the Danish companies that hire McKinsey or send their managers to Insead.

That said, if I can recognize what Erin Meyer describes, you probably can as well, and regardless if the model fits you personally, just knowing that the people you interact with may have different maps in their internal "corporate blueprint" can help you interact better.

Don't use this map as an "answer sheet" - it is easy to fall into stereotypes that may be wrong. Use it as inspiration to get curious.