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Culture in practice. Gert Jan Hofstede Nov 2007. Niko Tinbergen’s questions. Animal behaviour…? cause function learning evolution How about culture?. 1907-1988. Cause of culture. People have Group-wise social structure Moral feelings (good / bad behaviour, reputation)

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Culture in practice

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culture in practice

Culture in practice

Gert Jan Hofstede

Nov 2007

niko tinbergen s questions
Niko Tinbergen’s questions
  • Animal behaviour…?
  • cause
  • function
  • learning
  • evolution
  • How about culture?


cause of culture
Cause of culture

People have

Group-wise social structure

Moral feelings (good / bad behaviour, reputation)

Empathy (laughing!)

Education (transferring values and practices for group)

Groups differ in environment


Substenance (hunt/gather, farm, herd)


→ divergence of cultures is expected

function of culture
Function of culture

Societies have scarce resources to divide

  • sexual partners
  • power
  • affiliation

→ rules of the game are called for,

to avoid fighting, jealousy, cultural downfall…

→ most important: Golden Rule, Categorical Imperative

→culture enables group to be a ‘virtuous’ reproductive unit

(…and identity creates out-groups)

learning culture
Learning culture

Children learn from

  • Parents, siblings, playmates


  • Being a good child, friend,…

Team members learn from

  • Leaders, one another


  • Being late, mobile phones, saying ‘yes’or ‘no’, …

blowing bubbles

culture and the moral circle
Culture and the moral circle
  • Culture is the unwritten rules of the social game
    • divide scarce resources
    • balance our individual drives
    • …with our moral group needs
  • Culture is how to be a good member of the moral circle.
    • if not: outcast
    • does not apply to non-members!
evolution of culture
Evolution of culture

Time scales:

±10.000.000 years: apes, versatile social mammals

± 1.000.000 years: early humans, fire → language → conquering niches, travelling

± 10.000 years: agriculture → cities → specialization,

warfare, empires, multilevel groups

± 1.000 years same

± 100 years industrialization, public / private

± 10 years information age, ‘global village’

now web eu
Now: Web, EU

Is the EU a moral circle?

transpacific trouble



Where is our code?

Give it now!

1. No. I have a better plan.

3. Mikkelsen to Yap and Tan

Here is my plan.

What do you think of it?

2. Lee cc: to many bosses

Do as we all tell you!

Transpacific trouble
  • Sequel:
    • Yap and Tan did nothing.
    • Bosses alerted by e-mail nr 2. forced Mikkelsen to comply.
    • Mikkelsen bypassed Lee in new work arrangement
  • Result 6 months later: Mikkelsen now satisfied.
scrap story
Scrap Story
  • Kuala Lumpur plant
    • Chip production
  • Production: Malay women
  • 1st line supervision: Male Indian and Malay
  • Middle mgmt: Malay and Chinese
  • Upper Mgmt: Chinese
  • Chinese / US: executive

New US executive: “reduce scrap!”

Scrap halved by end 1st quarter!

Malay woman standing alone

2nd quarter: inventory losses stagger

Toilets clog up

culture as a moral compass
Culture as a moral compass
  • These stories are about proper / improper
    • common rules-of-the-game are lacking
    • …and nobody knows this
  • Adaptability got us here
    • It will take us further
  • Enemies to social cohesion
    • Fear, Ignorance
    • Irresponsibility of leaders
  • We need to
    • know ourselves
    • know our differences
    • be one moral group