Decoding how people think, lead, and get things done across cultures

Erin Meyer - PublicAffairs - 2016 - 280 pages

The Culture Map

2022 February 02 | by Arduino Mancini Multiculturalism

After the pandemic due to COVID-19, smart working has become a practice everywhere in the world.

Living in a work environment more and more influenced by video conferencing can make us believe that cultural differences between us and the people on the other end of the monitor can be overlooked: especially when, as happens all too often, the webcam is switched off.

And precisely when opportunities to capture non-verbal signals decline, there is a growing need to have a clear idea of the diversity of perceptions of the same situation by people sitting around a virtual table.

Whether you work remotely or in person, The Culture Map is the book that will help you navigate through cultural differences and approach the most complex situations with greater awareness and chances of success.

Erin Meyer, the author of the book and professor of management practice in the Organizational Behavior Dept at INSEAD, analyzes how cultural differences impact business, helping us answer questions such as:

  • For what reason giving direct feedback is perfectly normal in the United States while in the East simply saying no is perceived as a lack of respect?
  • How to explain that hierarchy plays a completely different role in the behaviour of people who work in different countries?
  • How to manage a team in which a German, a Mexican and an Indian work together, and remotely?

Erin Meyer deals with the topic of cultural differences using an extremely pragmatic approach, employing a model based on eight variables, observed from their opposites:

  1. Communicating
    • low-context vs high-context
  2. Evaluating
    • direct negative feedback vs indirect negative feedback
  3. Persuading
    • principles-first (deductive reasoning, derives conclusions from general principles or concepts) vs applications-first (inductive reasoning, conclusions based on factual observations from the real world).
  4. Leading
    • egalitarian vs hierarchical
  5. Deciding
    • consensual vs top-down decision
  6. Trusting
    • task-based vs relationship-based
  7. Disagreeing
    • confrontational vs avoid confrontation
  8. Scheduling
    • linear-time vs flexible-time

Starting from this model, it is clear that even in a world where English is now the common language and for the majority of people it is not the native language, falling into the trap of cultural differences is incredibly easy.

What I have appreciated about Erin Meyer is the extremely pragmatic approach and a large number of examples and practical situations that she presents; the book will be certainly useful in all phases in which you will be sharing projects and objectives, managing multicultural teams, negotiation of any kind, managing a client portfolio, dealing with new personal and professional relationships.

The great merit of the book is that it encourages readers to adopt a valuable and, unfortunately, not so common mental habit:

looking at the world from other people’s point of view,

considering their motivation to do one thing rather than another.

In closing, just a footnote.

When addressing the topic of cultural differences, I recommend that you consider cultural clusters as a model, not a rule, while maintaining a strict focus on individual behaviours.

For, it may sound strange to you, there are Italians for whom food is not the favoured topic and Japanese who prefer NO to a YES of simple courtesy.

Here is a video (in English with Italian subtitles) in which Erin Meyer introduces her book; then go to the contents.



Introduction: Navigating Cultural Differences and the Wisdom of Mrs. Chen

  1. Listening to the Air
    • Communicating Across Cultures
  2. The Many Faces of Polite
    • Evaluating Performance and Providing Negative Feedback
  3. Why Versus How
    • The Art of Persuasion in a Multicultural World
  4. How Much Respect Do You Want?
    • Leadership, Hierarchy, and Power
  5. Big D or Little d
    • Who Decides, and How?
  6. The Head or the Heart
    • Two Types of Trust and How They Grow
  7. The Needle, Not the Knife
    • Disagreeing Productively
  8. How Late Is Late?
    • Scheduling and Cross-Cultural Perceptions of Time

Epilogue: Putting the Culture Map to Work




(No Ratings Yet)
Leave your comment now! (* mandatory)

Name *
E-mail *
Your comment *