The Evolution of Cultural Dimensions: Understanding Hofstede's Framework

dimensions of national culture

Professor Geert Hofstede conducted a comprehensive study on how cultural values impact the workplace. He defines culture as the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes one group from another. The research, led by Professor Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, Michael Minkov, and their teams, identified six dimensions of national culture.

Dimensions of National Culture

The model of national culture essay comprises six dimensions that represent distinct preferences in different countries. These dimensions highlight the variations in societal values and are relative, considering our shared humanity and uniqueness. In other words, culture gains significance through comparison and also helps understand what are the benefits of studying and understanding other cultures. The following dimensions constitute the model:

  1. Power Distance Index (PDI): This dimension explores the acceptance of unequal power distribution in a society. It delves into how organizations handle disparities among individuals. High Power Distance societies accept hierarchical orders without further justification, while low Power Distance societies strive for equalizing power distribution and question inequalities.
  2. Individualism versus Collectivism (IDV): This dimension examines the preference for individualistic or collectivistic social frameworks. Individualism represents a loosely-knit structure where individuals prioritize their interests and immediate families. In contrast, collectivism denotes a tightly-knit framework where individuals expect support from their relatives or in-group members in exchange for unwavering loyalty. The positioning on this dimension determines whether self-image is defined as "I" or "we."
  3. Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS): Masculinity represents a preference for achievement, assertiveness, and material rewards. It highlights competitive traits in society. Conversely, femininity signifies the importance of cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak, and focusing on the quality of life. It emphasizes consensus-oriented traits. In a business context, this dimension is sometimes called "tough versus tender" cultures.
  4. Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI): This dimension reflects the level of discomfort a society experiences regarding uncertainty and ambiguity. It explores how societies cope with the unknown future: attempting to control it or allowing it to unfold naturally. Strong UAI societies uphold strict codes of belief and behavior and oppose unorthodox ideas and behaviors. Weak UAI societies maintain a more relaxed attitude, valuing practice over rigid principles.

Long Term Orientation versus Short Term Normative Orientation (LTO)

Every society faces the challenge of balancing its past with the present and the future. However, the prioritization of these existential goals varies among cultures.

Societies scoring low on this dimension value time-honored traditions and norms while viewing societal change skeptically. Conversely, high-score societies take a pragmatic approach, emphasizing thrift and investing in modern education to prepare for the future.

In the business context, this dimension is referred to as "(short-term) normative versus (long-term) pragmatic" (PRA). In academic circles, it is sometimes termed Monumentalism versus Flexhumility.

Indulgence versus Restraint (IND)

Indulgence represents a society that allows relatively unrestrained gratification of basic human drives, embracing enjoyment and fun. On the other hand, restraint characterizes a culture that suppresses the gratification of needs and regulates it through strict social norms.

Culture Exists in Comparison

The scores on cultural dimensions are relative because, while we are all human, we are also unique individuals. In other words, culture gains significance through comparison.

These relative scores tend to remain stable over time. Cultural shifts are typically driven by global or continent-wide forces, affecting multiple countries simultaneously. Consequently, when cultures undergo shifts, they do so collectively, and their relative positions remain unchanged. Exceptions to this pattern include failed states and societies experiencing rapid increases in wealth and education levels. However, even in such cases, the relative positions change gradually.

The country culture scores on the Hofstede Dimensions align with other relevant data concerning the respective countries. Power Distance, for instance, correlates with income inequality, while individualism correlates with national wealth. Additionally, Masculinity is inversely related to the percentage of national income spent on social security. Uncertainty Avoidance is associated with the legal requirement for citizens to carry identity cards in developed countries. Long Term Orientation (LTO) is connected to school mathematics performance in international comparisons.

The Evolution of Cultural Dimensions

The distinct values that differentiated country cultures were categorized into four groups, forming the Hofstede dimensions of national culture:

  1. Power Distance (PDI)
  2. Individualism versus Collectivism (IDV)
  3. Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS)
  4. Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)

In 1991, a fifth dimension was introduced based on research by Michael Harris Bond, supported by Hofstede. This dimension, Long-Term Orientation (LTO), was derived from a survey conducted among students in collaboration with Chinese professors. LTO was applied to 23 countries, reflecting Confucian thinking.

Further research conducted in 2010 by Michael Minkov, using data from the World Values Survey, led to the generation of two additional dimensions. One dimension was entirely new, while the second dimension replicated the concept of the fifth dimension. The number of country scores for the fifth dimension expanded to 93. Although the fifth dimensions proposed by Bond and Minkov correlate strongly, they are not identical constructs. On this site, the scores utilized are based on Minkov's research, referring to it as Long-Term Orientation versus Short-Term Orientation (LTO).

In the 2010 edition of Cultures and Organizations, a sixth dimension was added based on Michael Minkov's World Values Survey data analysis from 93 countries. This dimension is known as Indulgence versus Restraint (IND).

On January 17, 2011, Geert delivered a webinar titled "New Software of the Mind" for SIETAR Europe, introducing the 3rd edition of Cultures and Organizations, which includes the research findings of Minkov.

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