Book review/recommendation: The Culture Map

For all of those business leaders out there looking to navigate global management dynamics I can do no better than to recommend the following book to you:

The Culture Map: Breaking through the invisible boundaries of global business by Erin Meyer (2016)

I’ve just finished reading it and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Why? Because it answered so many complex cultural issues I’ve been witnessing and will be certain to help me as I work internationally. It will be one of those books I’ll go back to again and again as I work with leadership teams spread out across the globe.

The basic theory of the book is that a national or regional culture shapes the way people think, what they believe and how they get things done. What is considered virtuous in one culture is considered rude and frustrating in another.

Key cultural issues & sliding scales

The book walks you through 8 key cultural issues which are crucial to doing business globally. Different cultures can view these 8 areas very differently and so you ignore them at your peril. The key cultural areas are:

  • Communicating (low content vs high content)

  • Evaluating (Direct negative feedback vs indirect negative feedback)

  • Persuading (Principles-first vs Application-first)

  • Leading (Egalitarian vs Hierarchical)

  • Deciding (Consential vs Top-down)

  • Trusting (task based vs relationship based)

  • Disagreeing (Confrontational vs avoiding confrontation)

  • Scheduling (Linear time vs flexible time)

Erin has a brilliant method of helping you define your “cultural norm” by plotting different cultures on a sliding scale. This then helps you understand how you see others, and how you will be seen by them, based on this. It’s like a map. A culture map. To help you navigate globally. It shows how cultures vary along each spectrum from one extreme to another.

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