Author Erin Meyer

Communication across cultures is the great challenge of the global economy, now more than ever, where you work is meaningless, and the question is: whom can you work with? Erin Meyer is a professor at INSEAD, one of the world’s leading international business schools and is an expert in navigating the complexities of cultural differences in a multicultural environment.

The Culture Map book on a shelf

The book doesn’t fall into the classic cultural bias/categorisation of people based on their origins. It is not meant to be judgemental of people and to classify based on stereotyped silos. What the author is achieving here is helping us to be open to recognise and understand people around us. Observe and become aware of cultural behaviours and understand how to adapt to get the best from our business and human relations.

The culture map will become an inseparable friend that will prepare you in leading global teams, adapt to a new country, and understand cultural differences using them for your success. The book is rich with stories and anecdotes about cultural misunderstandings and examples of miscommunication and is a scientifically proven source of data and information to overcome them.

The author starts the book with a great example of the invisible boundaries that divide the world. Although we are globally connected via mail or phone, it’s challenging to capture the cultural differences as we all seem to have flattened our personalities. So when you start to talk via video or meet the person you’ve been doing business remotely for a while, you may not be aware of the cultural differences that might divide you and be open to accepting them is not enough. Recognise cultural context adapting your behaviour based on said understanding will make you a successful world leader. One of the numerous valuable tools to quickly understand these differences is the culture map that shows where countries sit against actions like

  • Communicating: low-context Vs high-contest
  • Evaluation: direct negative feedback Vs indirect negative feedback
  • Persuading: principles-first Vs application-first
  • Leading: egalitarian Vs hierarchical
  • Deciding: consensual or top-down
  • Trusting: task-based or relationship-based
  • Disagreeing: confrontational Vs avoids confrontation
  • Scheduling: linear-time Vs flexible-time

It’s imperative to complete an analysis of where your Country is placed on the map to compare others correctly. I appreciate a more hierarchical work structure than my colleagues in the Netherlands, but I am considered very egalitarian by the Japanese ones. The perspective of where you sit on the map depends on who’s looking at you and vice versa.

I am Italian, and I live and work in London; this information should inform you about my work behaviour versus in my free time. Let’s not forget that we pick up behaviours from the environment we live and work in, and everything becomes part of our culture. Imagine now this situation multiplied with the number of people leaving abroad and travelling the world for work and leisure. The result is an incredible layered culture that is very important to recognise. Awareness is the keyword.

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(This book review was kindly provided by Expert Circle, the executive thought leadership people, with whom we’re running our Classic Book series and from where we publish this shortened extract).