A culture map is a method that breaks culture down into eight behavioural scales. Since it is a tool for optimising collaboration in multicultural working environments, the eight behaviours selected are especially relevant to the business or organisation settings. In this talk with FIFA, Erin Meyer focuses on three of these in particular: communicating, evaluating and trusting.
Part 1: Introduction
Before looking at the three behavioural scales, Meyer makes two distinctions. Firstly, just because a country occupies a specific position along a behavioural scale does not mean that all individuals or groups within that country are the same. A country consists of sub-cultures, regional differences, generational differences and individual differences, which imply variance within the wider culture. The position of a country on a scale is an estimated average of this variance.
Secondly, the framework's benefits are not gained by focusing on where one country falls on a specific scale. The framework's power is when used as a tool to illustrate where countries are positioned in relation to each other. Two employees from two different countries may perceive a colleague from a third country differently depending on the gap between the cultures on the scale.
Part 2: Communication
The behavioural scale of communication positions "high context" on the far right and "low context" on the far left. The further a culture is to the right, the more effective communication is perceived as implicit, layered and nuanced. The further to the left, the more a culture tends to perceive effective communication as explicit, simple and clear. A culture's degree of context in communication is deeply intertwined with the country's history.
People from countries where low-context communication is more prevalent tend to presume a lower level of shared reference points between the individuals communicating, especially regarding aspects such as knowledge and information. Employees from societies with higher-context communication begin from a starting point that presumes many reference points are already understood by those involved.
Part 3: Evaluation
The second scale maps evaluation. This spectrum indicates how people from different cultures provide negative feedback to those they work with. Everyone that forms part of a working environment wants to give constructive feedback. However, what is deemed constructive varies across the globe.
People from countries closer to the direct negative feedback end of the scale tend to be more explicit with their constructive criticism. Those from countries nearer to the indirect negative feedback end tend to disguise these types of evaluations. The language used when providing feedback, such as up-grader and down-grader terms, can indicate the directness of a person's constructive criticism.
Part 4: Trust
The third scale, trust, is integral to any workplace. Cultures that function more on task-based trust in the working domain tend to keep cooperation within the realm of work. Examples of how to build trust in these cultures are meeting deadlines and producing high-quality work. On the other side of the scale, cultures that value relationship-based forms of trust in working environments require a deeper connection for effective cooperation; venturing into personal, non-work-related topics is more common as it can build a deeper level of assurance.