Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

The Father of Cross-Cultural Research : An Interview with Geert Hofstede

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

The Father of Cross-Cultural Research : An Interview with Geert Hofstede

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

Geert Hofstede was born in 1928 in the Netherlands. He received his M. Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from Delft Technical University and a doctorate of Social Science in 1967. He founded and managed the Personnel Research Department of IBM Europe in 1965 and has served as a Professor and Lecturer at IMD, EIASM (European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management), INSEAD, IRIC, and Maastricht University. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Management, Eminent Scholar of the Academy of International Business, and has two honorary doctorates. He is married to Maaike A. van den Hoek since 1955 and has four sons and seven grandchildren. He has nearly 200 publications in journals as diverse as the Academy of Management Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, Columbia Journal of World Business, and Gruppendynamik. His books have been translated into 17 languages.

Dr. Hofstede is often considered to be the father of modern cross-cultural research having created a new typology and paradigm for studying the cultures of countries which he sees as separate from organizational cultures. He offers an intuitive systematic framework for examining international differences. His original research suggested that there were four dimensions that can be used to describe and differentiate national cultures. These dimensions are strong uncertainty avoidance versus weak uncertainty avoidance, individualism versus collectivism, centralized power versus diffused power, and masculinity versus femininity.

Author: How were you able to make such a large difference in the field of cross-cultural research?

Hofstede: You have to give me a little bit of time, because it's a very huge question. First of all, I'm not sure how much difference I made. It is a process that is still going on. But what you could say is I had the good fortune to be on the right subject at the right moment. I started my work in this area in the 60's, and I published my first book in 1980.

This was just about the time that the world was becoming one market that cultural factors began to be an element in international competition and people were looking for good information. My book was about the only thing that was available. It has therefore become a model for others. Other people have followed it with other studies. Actually what you could say is that I set a new paradigm. I don't know whether you're familiar with the work of Thomas Kuhn on the sector of scientific definitions? Now, he talks about the beta sizes and in the social sciences he differentiates them because they clearly maintain a number of competing paradigms at the same time but in any case my work set a new paradigm. On the one hand, the corresponding affects of the new paradigm has resulted in rather fierce rejection, ridicule, and belittling. On the other hand, there have also been very positive reactions. People have said that this type of information changed their careers. So, fairly extreme reactions both on the positive and negative side. . .which is fairly typical for a new paradigm.

Author: What direction would you like to see cross-cultural research move toward?

Hofstede: I would like to see an integration of qualitative and quantitative research. One of the unintended, but possibly negative, consequences of what I did was that because I produced qualitative research, people are tempted to replicate that or to use it in ways with which they do not recognize its approximate nature.

People run away with figures. And I think that a kind of quantitative information we could use would be interesting if you can dress it in the reality of the qualitative facts behind it. So what I enjoy best are individuals who do studies with a lot of qualitative depth, and subsequently, refer them to my framework. And I think there's a lot of that in my newer book where I use that kind of studies and I use it to provide an insight into what is the reason I have found differences in my indexes in different cases. …

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