Country Cultural Stereotypes – Are they out of date?

Bipolar or 3D?

Here is a thought provoking post to kick of the ITC year. If you are prone to strong emotions – you will enjoy this article as there is something for everybody to react to…

I am still surprised to see intercultural diagrams showing bipolar dimensions populated with country flags. The historical starting point for this was the pioneering work at IBM carried out by Dr. Geert Hofstede. His premise was that countries were a valid and useful unit of comparative culture and that, further more, over time they have produced unique conditions that, in turn, shape country cultures. Additionally we were told that country culture is, mostly, a constant and unchanging phenomenon.

collage of people on the phone

Technology is changing culture.


The thoughts and filters of scientists and engineers are subconsciously influenced by their environment. Certainly various conditions present in the 1960’s helped to support early interculture theory.

When viewed from the present day, populations 50 or 60 years ago were relatively sedentary. Air transport was prohibitively expensive and not available to all, the Iron Curtain was in place, China was closed and the technology did not exist to promote affordable multicultural exchange or the viable existence of remote and virtual teams. There were many fewer transnational corporations and, most importantly of all, social ranking represented the status quo and this norm was not questioned or challenged as much as it is today – more on that later.

NOW – while there are many aspects of modern life that disgust us – perpetual war, wealth inequality and massive social injustice, there also exist things that represent forces for liberation and progress. A byproduct of these positive changes is that we can enjoy a more holistic view of culture.

Borders – A hundred year’s ago this May, French diplomat Francois Georges-Picot and Brit, Sir Mark Sykes secretly settled the political areas of influence in Asia Minor drawing up a new map favouring government expedience and over cultural sensitivity. This document demonstrated the awesome power wielded by posh white men. The resulting map was to have profound consequences for the Middle East. The effects of its creation continue to be felt today.

Travel – The availability of travel is exemplified by my children. They can match their age with the number of countries visited – It is taken as something like a human right to move and experience geographic contrast. Cheap airlines, airbnb and cash machines facilitate the massive modern movement of people. 2004 and 2014 had profound effects on the movement of people seeking employment within the EU countries.

Technology – virtual videoconference equipment, Skype and Facetime are shrinking the world and giving us access to more experience – instantly. A trivial example happened this Christmas – we had a Facetime call and saw into a German home – with candles lit on the Christmas tree. We even joined in singing. We did not have to leave London to experience this.

Awareness and diversity – the secret and overt revolution that is moving culture training away from sophisticated country stereotypes to something more nuanced and layered centres on diversity. Via education and experience we are moving from acceptance of social rank, to question and investigate both privilege and marginality. We are looking for answers. Pioneering work in this field has enabled a mindful generation to form and own their identity based on more than 70 aspects of diversity thus moving beyond country of origin. In some cases this represents a journey from oppression to deeper community membership. Dogged communication exposing the mechanism and social cost of the old colonial system and historical country power structures is now moving the bar for many, formerly excluded people.

Social media – put simply, the democratic forces of the web can transcend the historic barriers of class, education, wealth or gender oppression. The absence of a dominant country passport is no longer fatal. More are allowed participate via the virtual, connected world.

Group of friends having fun together outdoors

What is possible now?


So, in the last 60 years we have moved from a rigid white Anglo Saxon Protestant male authored power model with its world of self drawn maps and fixed countries to a richer and multifaceted reality where each individual’s net privilege and marginality combine with other connections and relationships to give access to virtual communities, education and economic possibilities. On offer is membership of something shared and beyond being from a winning or losing country.

The shift from dimensions to a world of 3 dimensions makes bipolar scales look a little dusty, like a museum exhibit.



Why You Should Write a Book in 2016

Scribble yourself credible by Matthew Hill

Looking at the list of ITC recipients of this newsletter, I recognise it least 40 authors. These heroes have made the decision to write a book and to get it published. They are people who stand out from the crowd. They tend to have a higher social media presence, are more involved with credible organisations and they, probably, charge a premium for their time and work.

Vintage red typewriter with blank paper

Making the decision to start – that is the tricky bit.

So what is stopping you?

When I speak to coaches and trainers at conferences and congresses and ask them why they aren’t more involved in writing and promoting their messages, I hear a narrow and repeating collection of responses.

“I am not a good writer”,” I haven’t got the time”,” I’ve got nothing original to say”,” everything’s been said on my subject already” and, ” I lack the discipline to complete a book.”

Many of these self-limiting beliefs turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.

In this piece I want to point out some of the benefits to being a published author.

The Benefits

  1. The credibility of authorship – despite social media, video cameras, and the ever-increasing number of opportunities to present in public, having your own book still carries more weight than just about anything else. When it comes to leveraging your brand, accessing opportunity and being taken seriously as an expert in your field, a book is critical. Many TV shows, and radio stations, will ONLY interview people who have published a book. When you tell people you have written a book, they hesitate and then treat you in a completely different way. It is one of the few things, that creates almost instant credibility.
  2. Opening doors whilst you sleep – a book, released and running free in the world, tirelessly works for you – converting strangers into acquaintances and admirers into screaming, raving fans who are happy to advocate your genius. Think of your book as advertising billboards or hoardings, shining like a beacon in all parts of the world, and hailing you as a key person of influence. James Joyce describes a stranger as being a friend that you have yet to meet. This is the magic of a book. It is a stranger converter.
  3. Your calling card – successful author and informational product creator Peter Thomson, says that going into a meeting and bringing a published book out of your bag, is a reliable method of testing the temperature and intention of the people sitting across the table. If they treat your tome with respect, deference and interests, your business relationship will be a constructive one. If they put their cup of coffee on it, you can pack up and leave early. They are not going to fully appreciate your value.
  4. Credo – there are millions of people out there, many of whom will never work with you. Likewise there are a few hundred people who would really benefit from collaborating and accessing your expertise. A book filters out the wrong people and warms up the right ones, generating a healthy interest and qualifying them before helping them to understand what you stand for before they get in contact with you. Think of a book as an elaborate filtering system saving you many unsuccessful blind dates and pointless meetings.
  5. Intellectual property – the discipline of writing a book centres on finding a structure to hang and place all of your thoughts and feelings. One of the best ways to do this is to construct a model – the 4P’s of marketing by Philip Kotler is a great example of a structure that resonates well with a wide audience. The discipline of forming a model is good for you as a communicator. It makes your message accessible to a target audience and becomes a vital pillar for your professional brand.
  6. Your book is management consultancy – Following on from 5. A good book takes the reader on a journey. Questions are asked, thoughts are experienced and, at the end, the reader may understand their lack, gap, space and pain with a new clarity. It is the uncovering and clarifying of need that propels the reader to get in contact with you and to engage at a deeper level.
  7. Your book is a publicity generator – linked to 1. A book can generate keynote speech invitations, magazine interview invitations and business meetings, where you are given a platform to convert the book’s message into a critical speech, a pitch or interactive audience session that will generate income and progress.

A final thought

In this post, I have attempted to briefly outline the extraordinary benefits of completing the writing and publishing process. For many people it is about making a decision to start. It is about owning your expert area and it is about putting a structure in place. After writing your book, there follows a complex procedure of publishing and promoting that makes the writing of the book seem like one of the smaller parts of the project.

If you commit to this process, I know you will enjoy yourself, benefit from the discipline and reflection involved, and reap the rewards of being seen as an expert. The bonus comes in the form of credibility from simply being an author.


Done it! – There is no better feeling in the world.

Your move – feel free to comment or get in touch if this post has moved you strongly one way or another!