The one sentence summary

Where we grow up constrains the way we think, feel, and act.


  • This is all about mental programmes, or the software of the mind, needed for effective intercultural cooperation. The authors have collected three decades of data from 70 countries, and developed indices to measure characteristics statistically.
  •  There are 5 main areas where cultures differ in their approaches:
  1. Relation to authority: The Power Distance Index measures the degree of inequality in society, and the degree to which it is accepted. More equal countries tend to be wealthier, and in higher latitudes.
  2. Individual v group: The Individualism Index shows the USA, UK and Australia at the top, and China and Japan in the bottom half.
  3. Masculine v feminine: in masculine societies gender roles are clearly defined (men are supposed to be assertive, tough and focused on material things; women to be modest, tender and into quality of life. In feminine societies, these overlap). The Masculinity Index shows Slovakia, Japan and Hungary at the top, and the Nordics at the bottom.
  4. Dealing with ambiguity: The Uncertainty Avoidance Index measures tolerance towards it. Greece and Portugal come top, with Denmark, Jamaica and Singapore bottom.
  5. Long v short term: The Long-term Orientation Index shows China and Japan at the top, with Spain, Nigeria, Czech Republic and Pakistan bottom.
  • All of this stems from history, manifested in identity (language, religion), values (software of the mind), and institutions (rules, laws, organizations)
  • Culture is learned, not innate. It is the unwritten rules of the social game.
  • Managers and leaders, and the people they work with, are part of national societies.
  • Corporate culture is a soft, holistic concept with presumed hard consequences.


  • You can look up a nationality and understand their approach better.
  • UK companies are adhocracies, but with systems.
  • US ones are divisionalized, with standardized outputs, obsessed with the market.
  • Chinese ones have a simple structure and direct supervision, family-style.
  • French ones are full bureaucracies, keen on power.
  • German ones are professional bureaucracies, obsessed with order.
  • The Nordics are insistent on equality.



  • Nothing. It’s important to learn about other cultures.