Episode 13: Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden Turner
For twenty years these two academics, a cross-cultural
Anglo-Dutch partnership, have been interviewing managers
around the world, giving them questionnaires to answer, conducting
seminars and advising their companies.
Most of the management theory we know about has come from the Anglo-American
culture, the one that most of these gurus belong to. This is a universalist
culture, one that assumes that the rules that work for it will work
universally. That might be a dangerous illusion. After
all, we know that things work quite differently but equally well
in other parts of the world.
Trompenaars and Hampden Turner discovered that North Americans and
North Europeans were almost totally universalist in their responses.
They would put the law first. Only 70 per cent of the French and
the Japanese would do so, however, while, in Venezuela, two thirds
would be particularist in their response.
Universalist countries take contracts very seriously and they employ
lots of lawyers to make sure that the contract is kept. Particularist
countries think that the relationship is more important than the
contract and that a good deal requires no written contract
- the particular people and the particular situation matter more
than the universal rules.
Trompenaars and Hampden Turner have detailed their conclusions in
a string of books, amongst which are 'Building Cross-Cultural
Competence' and '21 Leaders for the 21st Century'.
The answer to the dilemma, say Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner,
is to reconcile the opposites, to recognize that the cultures
need each other.
This is our last episode. Hopefully the twelve gurus you've met
in this Handy Guide will help you find your own way in the world.
Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden Turner's biography