Showing posts from 2009

Zijn eilanden slecht?

(For the English speaking followers of this blog: if I have time, I will write an English version entitled 'Are islands bad?'
In discussies over het functioneren van organisaties en hun strategie het het vaak over de versnippering van organisaties in eilandjes waarin mensen hun eigen definities van de werkelijkheid in stand houden. Deze eilanden kunnen samenvallen met professies of beroepen, met vestingingsplaatsen, met hiĆ«rarchische niveaus. Tussen de eilanden zien we vaak stereotypering en slechte communicatie, binnen de eilanden is vormt men vaak sterk defensieve identiteiten. In een wat constructivistisch jargon heeft men het tegenwooordig wel over betekeniswolken - zie het werk van Thijs Homan - en hoewel men pluriformiteit en meerstemmigheid aanhangt, ziet ook deze stroming het bestaan van gesloten betekeniswerelden als probleem. En er zijn inderdaad problemen verbonden met de versnippering van organisaties in eilanden en betekeniswolken. In professionele organisaties, …

Does liberalism have Chinese roots?

Tim Ambler and Morgen Witzel, in their book Doing Business in China (first published in 2000, with a second edition in 2004) suggest that the liberal idea of laissez faire originates in China. Socialism, on the other hand, has its roots in Western philosophy. This is an interesting idea, because we tend to think that economic liberalism comes from the 'free' Western world, whereas socialism is the legacy of China's own recent past. The connection between Chinese philosophy and economic liberalism, also put forward in an article by Witzel on the internet for European Business Forum ( ( is formed by the inspiration some European, notably French, thinkers drew from Daoist (Taoist) writing. Witzel emphasizes the difference between Confucian and Daoist thinking:
"While the Confucians believed that virtue could best be achieved through regulation and control, the other great philosophical school of ancient China, the Daois…

Hofstede and China: Limitations

Characterizing Chinese Culture: the Poverty of Hofstede’s DimensionsDr. Huibert de ManOpen University of the Netherlands/Maastricht School of Management(Originally written in 2005, adapted in 2009)
In many publications on Chinese organizations and management, some attention is given to the influence of the specific business culture in China, which significantly differs, from North American or European culture.The most cited author in this respect is no doubt Hofstede. His analysis of work attitudes of IBM marketing professionals in 40 countries, by means of survey research in 1968 and 1972, formed the basis for a framework for the analysis of cultural differences, which was published in his book ‘ Culture’s Consequences’ in 1980 (Hofstede, 1980). This framework now belongs to the standard view of culture in management. Uncertainty avoidance, collectivism (-individualism), power distance and masculinity (-feminity) have become the standard dimensions in which cultural differences betwe…

Cross cultural management and mirroring

What I always felt to be true, now gets support from neuroscience. We understand other people because we mirror their behaviour in our brains, not because we can find the deeper meaning of what they do in terms of underlying values and concepts. Understanding other people is based on the activity of brain cells that 'copy' what the other person does, so that we feel what the other person experiences. This is the essence of Marco Jacoboni's book 'Mirroring People'. The 'mirroring' concept gives an attractive alternative to the sender-receiver model of communication, in which people pack meaning in words and gestures, and others unpack these messages to find the meaning. Many texts on cross-cultural communication are based on this model. Since people encode their meaning in different ways, we need to unravel the cultural code to understand what they really mean. The popular model of the 'onion', also used by Hofstede, where we have to peel one layer a…