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The central organizing structure of the authors’ thesis is designated as The Cultural Orientations Model which identifies and defines ten cultural dimensions that the authors conclude are important societal markers in all cultures. Every culture in their view, for example, has shared and significant orientations about concepts such as competitiveness, perceptions of time, communication and power relationships.
Each of these ten cultural dimensions has one or more continua or scales that permit the authors to distinguish the cultural orientation of each regional society relative to each of the dimensions in their model. For example, the competitiveness dimension utilizes a continuum that enables each region’s orientation to be denoted along a range from highly competitive through cooperative. This done, Danielle Medina Walker, Thomas Walker and Joerg Schmitz present suggestions for improving human interaction within and between members of the various cultural groups. They appear undaunted by the enormity and complexity of their enterprise.
Lest we misunderstand their position, the authors provide a set of important caveats about their work. The cultural orientation findings are intended to be used as "… initial hypotheses to be examined and modified through active engagement" (pp. 58-59). This
is a work, therefore, that uses generalizations about cultures and the writers inform us are these generalizations not in any way meant to be mistaken for stereotypes which "… in contrast, are closed systems of belief" (p. 59).
As further clarification, the authors cite two great truisms about cultural generalizations that are important to understanding their work. The first is that most fundamental of social sciences axioms that "there are more differences within groups than between groups" (p. 201). The second is a guideline by Nancy Adler that wisely states that in dealing with individuals, one should "assume differences until similarity is proven" (p. 203).
What is important about this book is its topic. Whether or not we agree with the specific conclusions of the authors, it provides an organized structure to examine cultural orientations as major forces in all human interactions. Understanding of one’s own cultural lens as well as the recognition of the cultural perspectives of other participants in negotiations is vital to achieve the potential inherent in the process itself. This is a valuable tool to address that factor.
For anyone involved in an international organization, whether it is a business enterprise or not, the work is an excellent resource on operating within a global or cross-cultural environment. The authors extensively explore cross-cultural strategies and techniques they have developed in their international consulting practice for increasing the effectiveness of global communications, business teams and management.
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