Monday, August 21, 2017


In recent weeks we’ve discussed the decision-making process in America and how that pattern differs from other cultures. Put a little too simply, developed countries with egalitarian values follow one model, while hierarchies and emerging nations tend to follow another.

Erin Meyer, professor at the prestigious international business school INSEAD, presented some fascinating research in the July-August 2017 Harvard Business Review. She categorized 55 countries along eight behavioral scales, in order to show how various cultures defer to authority, reach consensus, and otherwise resolve problems. Everyone involved in any global venture –from education to research to business—should examine what she discovers.

She presents the common extent to which Indians, Koreans, Nigerians and Chinese defer to authority and are marvelous team players.

She also shows surprising commonalities in Russia, India and America, where decisions are made quickly, often by the boss, but then may be readily and routinely changed as more information comes to light.

She divides Europe into North and South, the former (especially Scandinavia) exhibiting extremely consensual patterns of problem solving, while the latter (especially the Catholic countries) yield to authority. In this latter respect, she finds France more deferential than Germany.

She discusses what the “Anglo Saxon,” English-speaking countries have in common, and finds that Australia exceeds even the United States in being the most egalitarian and consensual in problem-solving.

She questions why nations as disparate as China, Saudi Arabia, France and Russia are alike in many elements of their processing.

She determines that every emerging market country, despite how much they profess democratic values, has top-down leadership, a valuable survival tactic. After all, as the institutions and legal systems are still developing, it is useful to have a strong and undisputed leader for every effort.

This begs the question, how must the American workplace react to these realities? And how must American workers adjust to such outside practices? And finally, how must non-native professionals working in America adapt their patterns to American ways? This is the subject for next time!