On my team at GitHub, we have people from over a half-dozen countries. There is a hefty amount of differences in such a culturally diverse environment to reconcile to work together effectively. One of my teammates recommended I read The Culture Map to learn about how and why cultures differ. As it turns out, it taught me that I am, by most measures, quite German!
The eight scales
Author Erin Meyer places the same 30-odd cultures on eight different spectrums:
Communicating (Low context vs. High context) - Do people speak between the lines or directly?
Evaluating (Direct vs. indirect) - Do people deliver negative feedback directly or implicitly?
Persuading (Principles vs. applications) - Is every idea proven from first principles, or do people start with their conclusion?
Leading (Egalitarian vs. hierarchical) - Is the boss another member of the team or off in a corner office?
Deciding (Consensual vs. top-down) - Does the boss ask everyone’s opinion or make decrees from on high?
Trusting (Task-based vs. relationship-based) - Do you trust people based on the work they do or your emotional connection with them?
Disagreeing (Confrontational vs. not) - Do you disagree openly, quietly, or not at all? When you judge someone’s work, is it also an assessment of their character?
Scheduling (Linear time vs. flexible time) - How much do you value punctuality?
The root of differences
For each scale, Meyer gives examples of what influences a culture’s position on the given spectrum:
Leading - Nations influenced by the Roman empire inherited the hierarchical nature of the Roman political systems. (Spain, Italy) Counties with Viking influences tend to be more - egalitarian (Denmark, Sweden)
Communicating - Cultural mixing in diverse countries like the United States necessitates lower-context (more explicit) communication due to a lack of shared historical context.
Persuading - Educational systems vary across the world between inductive and deductive, translating into different persuasive approaches in adulthood.
Scheduling - Long-established industrial nations trend toward punctuality, as factory work requires close coordination of workers. Nations with less political stability and weaker industrial sectors are less punctual, born out of a need for more flexibility in an uncertain environment.
My place on the map
Despite being born and raised in America, I most closely align with the German culture on most of the scales. This finding isn’t a huge surprise, as I am the first to admit the influence of my mother’s German ancestry (both parents) on my upbringing.