The one sentence summary

Mindset factors such as social structure, institutions, and value orientations can explain different patterns of perceiving and reasoning around the world.


  • This is all about the role of culture and perception in international relations, with many lessons for global business.
  • The author coined the word mindset to explain different patterns of perceiving and reasoning around the world.
  • People view issues and events through a cultural lens.
  • The culture concept involves a set of implications that derive from a culture’s function as the human being’s unique way of coping with the environment (physical and social).
  • The mindset factors that are the most consequential are social structure, institutions, and value orientations. All provide basic programming for the brain, just as a computer is progammed. This is referred to as deep culture.
  • The most important questions to ask about cultural mindsets are:
  1. What significant values and assumptions about dealing with nature and its resources result from coping with a group’s physical environment?
  2. How does the human environment and the way culture defines social structure mould mindsets?
  3. How does the society’s collective past experience survive in the form of a culturally transmitted memory?
  4. What knowledge will people bring to this particular event?
  5. Is there a unique deep cultural lens at work?
  6. What should be taken into account regarding the process by which mindsets came to be engaged?


  • Cognitive factors that affect economic and social behaviour include orientation toward the self, achievement motivation views of time, social relationships, and abstract thinking and reasoning.
  • Benjamin Lee Whorf developed the hypothesis that “the structure of the language one habitually uses influences the manner in which one understands his environment.” Language really matters.
  • Does the old hand have twenty years’ experience or one year’s experience twenty times?


  • Originally written in 1988 and updated in 1997, it is mainly based on experience from the foreign service. You need to apply the suggestions across to a business context.