When Cultures Collide | Richard D. Lewis

Summary of: When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures
By: Richard D. Lewis

Introduction

Prepare to embark on a journey through the complex world of cultural differences in ‘When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures’ by Richard D. Lewis. This book summary offers a comprehensive look at the diverse ways people from various nations perceive basic concepts, affecting their behaviors and interactions. Dive deep into the core beliefs and assumptions rooted in each culture and learn how these impact communication and collaboration between individuals. Understand the key characteristics of linear-active, multi-active, and reactive cultures, while exploring the significance of time, status, leadership, and organization in shaping a person’s worldview. Through this summary, you’ll gain valuable insights into the challenges and solutions for effective cross-cultural communication and leadership.

Understanding Cultural Differences

Cultural differences shape people’s behaviors and beliefs, leading to varying perspectives on basic concepts we all share. Through experience, individuals form their own common sense, which can differ significantly from culture to culture. These differences stem from various core beliefs and assumptions about reality that depend on factors such as nationality, regional identity, corporate culture, family culture, and even gender. Understanding these differences is crucial for effective communication and building relationships with people from diverse backgrounds.

Understanding Cross-Cultural Communication

Cross-cultural communication involves differences that transcend superficial aspects of culture. The essential differences lie in how people think and perceive concepts like honor, duty, love, justice, and gratitude. Though basic concepts may be shared among cultures, they are viewed from different angles that may lead to unusual behaviors. There are also variations among cultures in how truth in business, contracts, and ethics are perceived and approached. Language shapes thought, which influences behavior and cognitive processes. Different languages can lead to distinct understandings of the same thing. Ultimately, effective cross-cultural communication involves recognizing these differences in thought and perception.

Understanding Cultural Programming

In “intercultural sensitivity,” understanding the programming that underlies your values and assumptions is key. According to linguistics expert Geert Hofstede, culture functions like collective programming, shaping your beliefs and behavior from birth. These core principles help you integrate within your own culture, but create culture shock when meeting contrasting beliefs. Cultural chauvinism, believing your own culture to be the best, is dangerous. Recognizing the relative nature of your values and assumptions allows for greater cultural understanding. Instead of false stereotyping, develop cultural sensitivity by acknowledging and learning from differences.

Three Cultural Groups

A classification of world cultures into three groups: linear-active, multi-active, and reactive, based on task vs. people orientation, respect for schedules, and modes of communication.

The world’s cultures can be classified into three groups: linear-active, multi-active, and reactive. Linear-active cultures, such as the Germans, Swedes, Swiss, and Dutch, are task-oriented and plan-oriented. They prefer a scheduled timeline and focus on doing one thing at a time, believing it leads to greater productivity. Multi-active cultures, such as Italians, Portuguese, and Arabs, are people-oriented and talkative. They place more value on interaction with others than on schedules or punctuality. Reactive cultures, such as the Japanese, Chinese, Finns, and Southeast Asians, are introverted listeners who value respect. They concentrate on what a speaker is saying and rarely interrupt, often speaking in monologues and using passive voice.

Situations that can trigger conflict arise when linear-actives and multi-actives try to work together because they have different timelines and irritate each other unless one adapts to the other’s style. Data-oriented, dialogue-oriented, and listening cultures also differ greatly. Data-oriented people (Swedes, Germans, Americans) research before they act and usually have a linear-active character. Conversely, dialogue-oriented people, often from multi-active cultures (French, Spanish, Arabian), rely on personal contacts for information and tend to overlook agendas. Japan is an exception as it is a dialogue-oriented culture that uses written information. Successful economies are data-oriented cultures that use processed information, but cultural diversity also impacts communication.

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