Meyer’s Cultural Map

Meyer’s Cultural Map

I have just finished the Culture Map by Erin Meyer. It’s taken me longer to read than it should, but that’s not her fault. She argues, building on the work of, her predecessors, including Geerte Hofstede,  that there are eight dimensions of business communication, these are communicating, evaluating (feedback), leading, deciding, trusting, disagreeing, scheduling and persuading. She argues that cultures share positions on these dimensions as people’s comfort and natural style is based on their education systems and often deep seated cultural and historical factors. She argues that differences are relative i.e. you might be mediumly robust in offering direct feedback, but if you come across someone more so, you will find them rude, and need to recognise that if delivering such feed back to some one from a more robust culture, they may fail to understand.

In communicating, the degree of shared information is the key, low context culture need to communicate simply and explicitly and use summaries to confirm understanding. High context cultures use shared information to inform the conversation and short cutting this shared context can seem rude and ill-mannered. In evaluating, cultures vary with the level of bluntness, and again, those who naturally understate their [negative] feedback may well be misunderstood by those for whom if is a natural style. Leadership styles varying between an egalitarian approach and more hierarchical are also opportunities for confusion and ineffectiveness. The same is so for disagreeing. There is a fascinating explanation on how there can be cultural misunderstandings around scheduling which in some cultures it would seem optional.

The ‘Persuading, scale was interesting, illustrated by a story where an American got stuck because they didn’t explain why their plan would work, or at least not the theory behind it; their German colleagues couldn’t engage with the plan until it was. It’s categorised as task based vs principles based. It is my view that the British aren’t so interested in theory or principles, preferring what works and so called common sense, although Meyer scores us towards the principles end of the scale.  This may be aligned with the deciding scale, where the chart below talks about top down or bottom up, but the issue is how to build consensus. In the bottom up solutions, a broadly supported consensus is built before the decision, which is taken late and in the top down cultures, the decision is taken early, adjusted if necessary, and sold to the team, often through change acceptance programmes or training.

Within each chapter, she offers powerful anecdotes to illustrate the differences in culture and offers an inexact scoring mechanism for many leading countries. She offers more exact scorings and charts behind a paywall. Each chapter also talks about how each end of the spectrum can collaborate to improve communication,  team work and effectiveness.

An amusing diversion, is that as English becomes the international lingua franca of business, one’s culture creates a misunderstood meaning. Here is a useful guide, although possibly getting less so; an Anglo/EU English translator.

The chart below, shows a comparison between, Germany, France, China and Japan. It comes from the Harvard Review with whom it seems Meyer has an ongoing relationship.


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Meyer’s work is well reviewed elsewhere on the internet.

Glad I read it, and in theory it should help, but when doing 121’s it may be difficult to understand if any miscommunication is based on cultural insensitivity by me or just a lack of good old listening skills. …

An arithmetic concept

I am considering again, the role of Presidents of presidential republcs. Democracy means that the voice of the governed is heard, and is ideally final, that programmes are accountable to the people and the rights of the minority respected. Presidents, Leaders. or General Secretaries with weak mandates have the power and inclination to ignore the majority of their demos. Trump’s presidency among others proves that the argument, “that’s how it works” leads to crisis. Democracy is more than an arithmetic concept.  …

Fix the Tory Brexit, I don’t think so!

Fix the Tory Brexit, I don’t think so!

Up until now, the Labour Front bench has been promising to “Fix the Tory Brexit”, a statement echoed by Rachel Reeves in her speech to Conference, but the plaster seems to be cracking. David Lammy, in an interview with the BBC suggested that getting it right will involve renegotiating Boris’s deals, a move from Starmer’s position in January. Why this is controversial, I have no idea, if Labour don’t get their first, the Tories will. I should add that there is a growing support for rejoining the Customs Union and Single Market as solutions to the Northern Irish problems and the UK wide shortages and inflation. …

Fit for the Future

Fit for the Future

There's been a lot of words caused by Labour in Communication's publishing of their report Fit for the Future. This was covered by Labour List, who majored on Neil Kinnock, who wrote a forward and gave an interview. Much of the press and labour party comment followed this lead and talk about the ongoing purge which Kinnock, surprisingly, suggests is a distraction. The usual culprits are banging on about the unacceptability of legacy Blairite politics and how Kinnock lost the next two elections after he expelled the Militant. This is not helpful and suggest that the report has not been read. I precis the interesting bits and quote some other commentators. I think it's too long but more helpful than some might think. ...


I went to the Tank Museum yesterday and took some pictures.


It was interesting to visit the the week following the fall of Kabul; it makes at least one of the exhibits look a bit vainglorious. It also reminds me that I didn’t finish my story of the future of the Royal Armoured Corps from Boris’ defence review. It all makes me wonder about whether NATO can survive, and yet again, whether in areas of defence policy we see another dimension of the stupidity of Brexit.

There’s more to learn; on one slide they observe how the Army is always preparing for the last war. Reinforcing that I note that Tanks were invented during WWI in a Navy project, that like so many stories, the adoption in this case of the Tank was adopted by odd balls and that their was significant opposition bypowerul conservative (not Tory) factions in the Army, to the extent that during WW2 the Army fired Major General Hobart, and had to bring him back. Hobart, was not born into a military family and was assigned to the Royal Engineers; he became the Deputy Director of Staff Duties (Armoured Fighting Vehicles), he later became Director of Military Training and was the founder of the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats. There are many more examples of the slow adoption by the Army of the necessary tactics and technology, perhaps I’ll look them up and write something, if its not been done (I am sure it has).

As one walks in, the first exhibit talks about the design trilemma, of armour, firepower and mobility, a theme they revisit in commenting on a number of exhibits but if one recognises that the best tanks of the WWII were the US designed Sherman and Soviet T34, it becomes clear that cost, and manufacturing simplicity were also key. While tank on tank the allied tanks were inferior to their opponents, the allied forces had more than enough because they were simpler to make by design and the allied manufacturing capability was so much greater.  …

Not an option today

Own Jones, reflecting on the debate in Parliament, writes in the Guardian, “Even the crisis in Afghanistan can’t break the spell of Britain’s delusional foreign policy“. A crucial quote is, “The former prime minister is a fantasist: Britain has not had a foreign policy independent of the United States since the 1950s“. He then catalogues a series of what will come to be called war crimes by US & British forces. We went there because the USA invoked NATO solidarity and have left because again the US people got tired of foreign wars. The British Govt, was not consulted. The fact is as others have pointed out, the US is no longer a reliable geo-political ally at least for the UK, and possibly not for NATO yet the world remains dangerous, the UK needs Europe and needs the EU. Another reason that Brexit was a mistake.

Very well alone

I have copied the picture from the Guardian, in which it was originally published, they republished it in this article, “Lost empire: it’s a myth …” which looks at the historical revisionism showing the efforts the then Empire and nascent Commonwealth contributed to the UK’s “finest hour”.  …

Afghan Refugees II

I need to watch the Parliamentary debate on Afghanistan yesterday, but I have been busy helping JCWI (Joint Committee for the Welfare of Immigrants) and Another Europe is Possible in developing their responses.  I wrote something on my blog, focused on refugee assistance, although I called for the Govt. to suspend and rethink the Borders Bill. Here, overleaf, are some links and tweets suggesting actions that can be taken, if only retweeting or sharing; also statements from Lewisham Council and Labour Councils ....

On proscriptions

Before the NEC meeting at which it agreed to proscribe four organisations, a group of their members issued a statement.