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Cultures and Organizations
SOFTWARE OF THE MIND Intercultural Cooperation and Its Importance for Survival
By Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, Michael Minkov
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2010Geert Hofstede BV
All rights reserved.
The Rules of the Social Game
11th juror: (rising) "I beg pardon, in discussing ..."
10th juror: (interrupting and mimicking) "I beg pardon. What are you so goddam polite about?"
11th juror: (looking straight at the 10th juror) "For the same reason you're not. It's the way I was brought up."
—Reginald Rose, Twelve Angry Men
Twelve Angry Men is an American theater piece that became a famous motion picture, starring Henry Fonda. The play was published in 1955. The scene consists of the jury room of a New York court of law. Twelve jury members who never met before have to decide unanimously on the guilt or innocence of a boy from a slum area, accused of murder. The quote cited is from the second and final act when emotions have reached the boiling point. It is a confrontation between the tenth juror, a garage owner, and the eleventh juror, a European-born, probably Austrian, watchmaker. The tenth juror is irritated by what he sees as the excessively polite manners of the other man. But the watchmaker cannot behave otherwise. Even after many years in his new home country, he still behaves the way he was raised. He carries within himself an indelible pattern of behavior.
Different Minds but Common Problems
The world is full of confrontations between people, groups, and nations who think, feel, and act differently. At the same time these people, groups, and nations, just as with our twelve angry men, are exposed to common problems that demand cooperation for their solution. Ecological, economical, political, military, hygienic, and meteorological developments do not stop at national or regional borders. Coping with the threats of nuclear warfare, global warming, organized crime, poverty, terrorism, ocean pollution, extinction of animals, AIDS, or a worldwide recession demands cooperation of opinion leaders from many countries. They in their turn need the support of broad groups of followers in order to implement the decisions taken.
Understanding the differences in the ways these leaders and their followers think, feel, and act is a condition for bringing about worldwide solutions that work. Questions of economic, technological, medical, or biological cooperation have too often been considered as merely technical. One of the reasons why so many solutions do not work or cannot be implemented is that differences in thinking among the partners have been ignored.
The objective of this book is to help in dealing with the differences in thinking, feeling, and acting of people around the globe. It will show that although the variety in people's minds is enormous, there is a structure in this variety that can serve as a basis for mutual understanding.
Culture as Mental Programming
Every person carries within him- or herself patterns of thinking, feeling, and potential acting that were learned throughout the person's lifetime. Much of it was acquired in early childhood, because at that time a person is most susceptible to learning and assimilating. As soon as certain patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting have established themselves within a person's mind, he or she must unlearn these patterns before being able to learn something different, and unlearning is more difficult than learning for the first time.
Using the analogy of the way computers are programmed, this book will call such patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting mental programs, or, as per the book's subtitle, software of the mind. This does not mean, of course, that people are programmed the way computers are. A person's behavior is only partially predetermined by his or her mental programs: he or she has a basic ability to deviate from them and to react in ways that are new, creative, destructive, or unexpected. The software of the mind that this book is about only indicates what reactions are likely and understandable, given one's past.
The sources of one's mental programs lie within the social environments in which one grew up and collected one's life experiences. The programming starts within the family; it continues within the neighborhood, at school, in youth groups, at the workplace, and in the living community. The European watchmaker from the quote at the beginning of this chapter came from a country and a social class in which polite behavior is still at a premium today. Most people in that environment would have reacted as he did. The American garage owner, who worked himself up from the slums, acquired quite different mental programs. Mental programs vary as much as the social environments in which they were acquired.
A customary term for such mental software is culture. This word has several meanings, all derived from its Latin source, which refers to the tilling of the soil. In most Western languages culture commonly means "civilization" or "refinement of the mind" and in particular the results of such refinement, such as education, art, and literature. This is culture in the narrow sense. Culture as mental software, however, corresponds to a much broader use of the word that is common among sociologists and, especially, anthropologists: this is the meaning that will be used throughout this book.
Social (or cultural) anthropology is the science of human societies—in particular (although not only) traditional or "primitive" ones. In social anthropology, culture is a catchword for all those patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting referred to in the previous paragraphs. Not only activities supposed to refine the mind are included, but also the ordinary and menial things in life: greeting, eating, showing or not showing feelings, keeping a certain physical distance from others, making love, and maintaining body hygiene.
Culture is always a collective phenomenon, because it is at least partly shared with people who live or lived within the same social environment, which is where it was learned. Culture consists of the unwritten rules of the social game. It is the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from others.
Culture is learned, not innate. It derives from one's social environment rather than from one's genes. Culture should be distinguished from human nature on one side and from an individual's personality on the other (see Figure 1.1), although exactly where the borders lie between nature and culture, and between culture and personality, is a matter of discussion among social scientists.
Human nature is what all human beings, from the Russian professor to the Australian aborigine, have in common: it represents the universal level in one's mental software. It is inherited within our genes; within the computer analogy it is the "operating system" that determines our physical and basic psychological functioning. The human ability to feel fear, anger, love, joy, sadness, and shame; the need to associate with others and to play and exercise oneself; and the facility to observe the environment and to talk about it with other humans all belong to this level of mental programming. However, what one does with these feelings, how one expresses fear, joy, observations, and so on, is modified by culture.
The personality of an individual, on the other hand, is his or her unique personal set of mental programs that needn't be shared with any other human being. It is based on traits that are partly inherited within the individual's unique set of genes and partly learned. Learned means modified by the influence of collective programming (culture) as well as by unique personal experiences.
Cultural traits have often
Excerpted from Cultures and Organizations by Geert Hofstede. Copyright © 2010 by Geert Hofstede BV. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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