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International Management – The Meanings And Dimensions Of Culture Notes

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The Meanings and Dimensions of Culture


Culture - Acquired knowledge that people use to interpret experience and generate social behaviour. This knowledge forms values, creates attitudes and influences behaviour.

Values - Basic convictions that people have regarding what is right and wrong, good and bad, important an unimportant.

Power Distance - The extent to which less powerful members of institutions and organisations accept that power is distributed unequally.

Uncertainty Avoidance - The extent to which people feel threatened by ambiguous situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these.

Masculinity - A cultural characteristic in which the dominant values, in society are success, money things.

Femininity - A cultural characteristic in which the dominant values in society are caring for others and the quality of life.

Universalism - The belief that ideas and practices can be applied everywhere in the world without modification.

Particularism - The belief circumstances dictate how ideas and practices should be applied and that something cannot be done the same everywhere.


The following are characteristics of culture: o

Learned - Culture is not inherited or biologically based; it is acquired by learning and experience.


Shared - People as members of a group, organisation or society chare culture; it is not specific to single individuals.


Transgenerational - Culture is cumulative, passed down from one generation to the next.


Symbolic - Culture is based on the human capacity to symbolise or use one thing to represent another.



Patterned - Culture has structure and is integrated; a change in one part brings change in another. Adaptive - Culture is based on the human capacity to change or adapt.

If international managers do not know something about the cultures of the countries they deal with the results can be disastrous.


Culture can affect technology transfer, managerial attitudes, managerial ideology and even business government relationships.

Culture affects how people think and behave.

The cultural impact on international management is reflected by basic beliefs and behaviours.

Culture of society can directly affect management approaches: o

Centralised vs. decentralised decision making - In some society's top managers make all important organisational decisions. In others these decisions are diffused throughout the enterprise and middle and lower level managers actively participate and make key decisions.


Safety vs. risk - In some societies, organisational decision makers are risk averse and have great difficulty with conditions of uncertainty. In others, risk taking is encouraged and decision making under uncertainty is common.


Individual vs. group reward - In some countries personnel who do outstanding work are given individual rewards in the form of bonuses and commission. In others, cultural norms require group rewards and individual rewards are frowned on.


Informal vs. formal procedures - In some societies, much is accomplished through informal means. In others formal procedures are set forth and followed rigidly.


High vs. low organisational loyalty - In some societies people identify very strongly with the organisation or employer. In others people identify with their occupational groups.


Cooperation vs. competition - Some societies encourage cooperation between their people. Others encourage competition.


Short term vs. long term horizons - Some cultures focus most heavily on short term horizons such as short range goals of profit and efficiency. Others are

more interested in long range goals such as market share and technological development. o

Stability vs. innovation - The culture of some countries encourages stability and resistance to change. The culture of others outs high value on innovation and change.


Values are learned from the culture in which the individual is reared and they help direct the person's behaviour.

Hofstedes Cultural Dimensions

Geert Hostede identified four dimensions, and later a fifth, of culture that help explain how and why people from various cultures behave as they do.

His research was based on 116,000 respondents from 70 countries, who all worked for IBM. This is a criticism of the study.

Power Distance: o


In many societies lower level employees tend to follow orders as a matter of procedure.


In societies with high power distance strict obedience is found even at the upper levels.


High power distance countries will tend to be centralised and have tall organisational structures. Will have a large proportion of supervisory personnel and the people at the lower level of the structure will have low job qualifications.


A high power distance tends to encourage and promote inequality between people at different levels.


Countries in which people blindly obey the orders of their superiors have high power distance.

Lowe power distance organisations tend to be decentralised and have flatter organisation structures. These organisations will have a smaller proportion of supervisory personnel and the lower strata of the workforce will consist of highly qualified people.

Uncertainty Avoidance:

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