Thursday, 2 June 2011

Comparing Cultures

Geert Hofstede, of Maastricht University, compared cultures across many IBM subsidiaries in different countries. The results may provide some insight into the applicability of Swiss Direct Democracy to the UK. He used 5 criteria (only 4 for Switzerland):
  1. Power Distance, a measurement of inequality as perceived from lower levels in the organisation, rated 35 in the UK and 34 in Switzerland. Pretty much the same.
  2. Individualism was scored higher in the UK, 89, than in Switzerland, 68.
  3. Masculinity rated the UK, 66, slightly less than Switzerland, 70.
  4. Switzerland (58) rated higher than the UK (35) in Uncertainty Avoidance.
  5. Finally, the UK (25) had a short term outlook but Switzerland wasn't measured.
Before seeing these results I would have expected Power Distance and Uncertainty Avoidance to have been much lower in Switzerland. I imagine that Direct Democracy would flourish with a higher degree of equality and lower Power Distance score. Similarly, I would have assumed that frequent referendums would lead to greater uncertainty. However, we should be careful about using these results as they may be more associated with the local corporate culture than that exhibited in the general populace.

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