b-school, Business, HRM, Management, MBA, Personal, Thoughts

Back from India (and from a cultural impact)

I’ve just arrived from Delhi. In fact it has been 24 hours but, in the meantime, my mind kept wandering inbetween all kinds of different landscapes, smells and tastes until it settled back again. So many different faces, so many different paces: our hectic effort of preparing a presentation on the club lounge of a five-star hotel, the five-year-old child making his frenzied small monkey shout and dance to attract our attention and a few coins, the slow-moving cow trying to take a nap in the middle of the street and the agitated drivers trying to pass as close as possible. Definitely distances are measured differently in this huge place.

The billion cattle estimated to be alive today are more less one sixth of the estimated human population on Earth. The lucky ones live here, where they are revered and spoiled, where they can live tranquil and blissful lives, where they can thrive and be loved. It’s a wonder that there is no cow immigration process to this beautifully colored lands. If the other cows knew!

Humanity. This word takes new meaning here. So many people. We Europeans have tended to grow aseptic, almost inhumans. We hide within huge buildings of concrete, glass and steel, like the new terminal I’ve nurtured along with my peers, and we become insignificant below our not-so-functional monuments. We want them to serve as a rule to measure our cities and civilisation, instead of ourselves, our little selves.

In India you see so many people, so many happy -and not so happy- faces. The wonder is that it’s not easy to infer which faces will be happy and which won’t. Usually you won’t see that in the colours -or cost- of the robes. Humans… sometimes so happy owning nothing but conceiving nice thoughts… you never know.

This column, blog, page -whatever this is- wouldn’t be complete without the management reflection. And today it comes from Professor Geert Hofstede, of Maastricht University: “Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster.”

Are they? I’m personally a cock-eyed optimist and I tend to see the positive side to it. If we kept narrow mindedly to our own culture and background, the learning process would surely be impaired. Nonetheless cultural divergences must be managed.

As a reference, it is very interesting to examine Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, built from a handful of parameters:

  • Power distance or the degree of acceptance of the less favoured members of one society of the inequalities they are subjected to.
  • Individualism versus collectivism, or the degree to which the members of a society are integrated into groups.
  • Masculinity versus femininity, or the degree of distribution of roles between genders.
  • Uncertainty avoidance or degree of tolerance to uncertainty or ambiguity.
  • Long-term orientation versus short-termism.

As an example, the former dimensions applied to the Indian, Spanish and British cultural dimensions, according to the available data by Hofstede. Of course generalisations are unfair, and the Spanish profile was never actually completed, but the exercise is still interesting.

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4 thoughts on “Back from India (and from a cultural impact)

  1. I agree with Hofstede’s first statement, but not the second. The way the statement seems to flow, the second necessarily follows from the latter. I find it to be a rather colonial view of international business.

  2. I agree with you… well I’m not sure that Hofstede harboured colonial intentions but there’s much to gain from cultural interchange… don’t societies and organisations, when holding only one dominant view of the world, become sclerotic and unadaptable? I think there’s a lot to learn from each and every culture 😀

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