The Selection of Key Informants in IB Cross-Cultural Studies

Article excerpt

Abstract

* To enhance culture assessment methods emphasized in international business research, we propose a new methodology for assessing cultural values at country level. Using cultural consensus theory, and the literatures on key informants and profile similarity, we develop a procedure to identify cultural experts.

* Identifying cultural experts is important as these individuals agree on values of the culture. We apply our procedure to illustrate that identifying these individuals has important research implications.

Key Results

* We find that cross-cultural research results vary based on the respondents that report the values defining the cultural group. We propose and validate a procedure that identifies reliable cultural informants.

Introduction

National culture is an important construct in international business studies as almost 10% of the articles published in thirteen major business journals in the last five years have used culture as an explanatory variable. (1) The highest use was in the international business journals, where national culture (2) was found in 26.4% of the studies. Despite this popularity, the assessment of culture remains a problematic and challenging issue as result of the fuzziness of the culture construct as well as the multiplicity of types of cultural studies. The objective of this paper is to review existing types of cultural studies and the assessment methods they employ, and suggest a methodology designed to minimize measurement errors in cross-cultural business studies.

In reviewing the topic of culture assessment, Lenartowicz and Roth (1999) suggest that the approaches for assessing cultures vary according to the research design of a particular cultural study. Researchers (e.g. Roberts 1970, Adler 1983, Leung/Bond 1989, Adler/Bartolomew 1992, Triandis 1994) generally offer a rather consistent set of criteria for classifying these studies, based on the level of analysis, and the number of cultures that are being considered. Incorporating these criteria, and building primarily on the classification of Leung and Bond (1989), we detail (see Table 1) four basic types of cultural studies: ecological, within-culture, pancultural and individual. Ecological studies use cultures (e.g. cultural means) as the unit of analysis and have also been referred to as cross-cultural or inter-cultural studies. The other three types of cultural studies use individuals as the unit of analysis, but have different research objectives: a "within-culture" study uses just one culture and "pancultural" study includes more than one culture. Finally "individual" studies use scores at the individual level like pancultural studies but they extract from the scores the effect of culture (Leung/Bond 1989). This is done by within-group standardization, mean-centering or introducing dummies for countries in regressions (for more comprehensive review of this classification, the readers are referred to Leung and Bond (1989) and Lenartowicz and Roth (1999).

To these basic types of cultural research we suggest a fifth type, which is not mentioned by the reviewed literature, but has been largely present in cross-cultural management. For the purpose of this paper we call it "intergroup cross-cultural study" (see Table 1). The unit of analysis of these type of study is unicultural work groups and teams from different cultures. Examples include Gibson (1999) and Kirkmans and Shapiro (2001). In these studies, data are collected at individual level but are analyzed at the work group level.

To quantify or measure culture, business researchers often use values models, assessing the importance of various values to members of a cultural group. Within this approach, a number of different instruments have been developed. The most widely recognized instruments would include Hofstede's (1994) VSM (Value Survey Module), Rokeach's (1973) RVS (Rokeach Values Survey), and the Schwartz (1992) SVS (Schwartz Values System). …