The one sentence summary

It takes subtlety and understanding to get international teams to work effectively by playing to the strengths of each culture.


  • This is all about how to manage international teams successfully.
  • They are becoming the central operating mode for global enterprises. They often know local markets better and are more culturally aware than their parent company. But how can you get things done with colleagues with different word views?
  • How to strike the right balance between core values and diversity?
  • Linear-Active cultures (German, Swiss, UK etc.) are anchored in facts, planning, products, timelines, word-deed correlation, institutions, and law.
  • Multi-active cultures (Italy, Spain, Brazil etc.) are anchored in family, hierarchy, relationships, emotion, eloquence, persuasion and loyalty.
  • Reactive cultures (Vietnam, China, Japan etc.) are anchored in intuition, courtesy, network, common obligations, collective harmony, and face.
  • There is a high correlation between linear active cultures and low context behaviour, in which the language is apparently obvious, so the context doesn’t matter that much. For reactive and Multi-active cultures, high context deduction is the norm. Context is everything.
  • Brainstorming is not universally popular because many cultures are unwilling to contradict or offend superiors or colleagues (eg. Brazil), and many dislike thinking aloud (eg. Japan).


  • Disagreement is expressed in many different ways: “I disagree” (German); “That is unacceptable” (USA); “I have a different view” (Norway); “I agree up to a point” (UK); “That is certainly a very original idea” (Italy); “I agree and disagree at the same time” (China).
  • Cultural Black Holes are unswerving beliefs that blind individuals to any contradictory arguments (jingoism, the American Dream etc
  • Definitions of what is ‘the truth’ vary hugely by culture.
  • As the old joke goes:

Heaven is where the cooks are French, the police British, the lovers Italian, and the Germans organise everything. Hell is where the British cook, the Germans police, the lovers Swiss, and the Italians organise everything.

  • The moral is to put everyone in the right place to create a strong team.
  • There are character profiles of over 20 countries.


  • Don’t be fooled by clear-cut typologies – it’s more fluid than that. See the entire map, and/or read the book for deeper understanding.
  • Best read in conjunction with Lewis’s other book When Cultures Collide.