Individualism vs Collectivism
In essence this dimension deals with the relationship between the individual and the collectives in a given society. It is reflected in the way in which people live together. For example, nuclear families, extended families, tribes and other larger communities. It directly effects peoples values and behaviours. In some cultures individualism is sometime to be sought after but in others it is seen as alienation.
Canada has a score of 80 in this dimension which is its highest score by a considerable margin of 28.
Their society expects people to look after themselves and their immediate family. These values in are line with my own Irish values but we generally go one further and include extended family members in this bracket such as cousins, aunts and uncles by blood or marriage. Likewise in a business environment employees are expected to take initiative and be self-reliant without constant supervision. Where hiring and promotion decisions are concerned assessments are based on the individual’s accolades and capabilities.
It is important to note that Canadian employees will be expected to be able to work on individual tasks as well as group projects.
The vast majority of Canadians as well as other capitalist English speaking countries such as Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States have individualism ranked first. Financial most of all but most successes are a measure of personal achievement. Canadians are generally confident and open to discuss general topics however their private affairs are only up for discussion with their closest friends and family members. The predominately French speaking province of Quebec holds different views than the rest of Canada. This leads to tension between and their English speaking countrymen. Quebecers tend to be more private and reserved. Ethnocentrism is prevalent in Canada but particularly in Quebec.
Japan has a score of 46 on the Hofstede’s individualism dimension. Japan has many qualities of a collective society and indeed in popularly stereotyped as one, when in fact it scores in the middle. It prioritised harmonies relations over an individual’s need to express themselves and has a great sense of shame for losing face. This being said it is not as collective as its Chinese and Korean neighbours as they do not maintain extended families to the same extent.
Japan has a paternalistic society where assets are inherited from father to eldest son while the remaining siblings are left to their own devices, making their own living with their core families. A more recent study by Woodring found that Japanese students are scored higher on individualism and lower on power distance than Hofstede’s original sample. This was due to their age, according to Woodring. The findings suggest that Japanese college students value individualism and equality more than the rest of their society. Hofsede’s longitudinal study showed that national wealth and individualism are related. Japan has the world’s third largest economy, so it is no surprise that Japanese society is changing in this way.
In fact a recent Japanese term shin jin rui literally meaning “new human beings” has developed to describe 25 year olds and younger by their elders. They are thought to be “selfish, self-centred and disrespectful of elders and traditions”. Japanese society could be regarded as paradoxical as it is both individualist and collective depending on the given situation. For example Japanese employees are famous for their company loyalty but loyalty is something they choose for themselves which is a individualistic characteristic. Japanese society is collective by Canadian and indeed Irish standards but individualist by the rest of Asia’s standards.
Individualism vs Collectivism impact on Decisions Making
This mostly effects the motivations of a decision. Individualist societies are motivated by personal success and make their decisions according. They constantly trying to climb the corporate ladder and achieve a higher standard of living for themselves and their immediate family. Meanwhile in collective societies they prioritise their decisions for good of the group above their own personal goals. In a business context collective societies will work better in groups with people they have a personal relationship with. While individualist societies can work well as individuals and in groups with people they do not know. This allows for quicker decision making but not knowing a colleague on a personal level may lead to less active participation. Collective mentality takes more time but more options are analysed in more depth which in some circumstances is more effective but less time efficient.
Uncertainty avoidance indicates how threatened a society will be by ambiguous contexts and the degree to which it will attempt to avoid these situations by not tolerating deviant ideas or behaviours, and a belief in absolute truths. This ambiguity leads to anxiety. Different cultures manage this anxiety in different manners. A High Uncertainty Avoidance ranking indicates the country has a low tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. This creates a rule-oriented society that implements laws, rules, regulations, and controls in order avoid uncertainty. A Low Uncertainty Avoidance ranking indicates the country is less worried about doubt and is more comfortable taking into account a wide variety of views and opinions. This is mirrored in a society that is less strictly regulated, accepts change quicker, and takes more and greater risks.
Japan, with a score of 92, is one of the most uncertainty avoiding places on earth. This is thought to be due to Japans ever present threat of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and volcanic eruptions. May 2011s tsunami is a testament to this with a death toll of just under sixteen thousand. The Japanese have learned to prepare themselves all aspects of life and not just emergencies. From start to finish Japanese life is extremely organised by Canadian standards, with many tradition ceremonies such as opening and closing events for schools. These are performed in very much the same manner throughout Japan. Detailed etiquette books are available outlining proper behavioural practises and dress for important events such as weddings and funerals.
In the Japanese business world, vast amounts of time are invested into feasibility studies. All risk factors must be precisely analysed before any project gets the go ahead. Managers will insist on and indeed expect detailed facts and figures before committing to any decision. This need to precedent and approved practises makes introducing change difficult.
With a score of 48 Canada is considerable more “uncertainty accepting” than Japan. They readily accept new ideas, innovative products and have an enthusiasm to try new or different things whether its new technology, products or business practices. They are accepting of ideas and opinions from people on any level of a business which allows freedom of expression and upward and downward communication. Canadian culture is not rule orientated as Japan is but they tend to be less emotional expressive than cultures scoring higher on the dimension.
Canada uncertainty avoidance is fragmented somewhat. The British Columbia providence is viewed as the “Western Frontier” while Quebecers are much more reserved and reluctant to change. Traditionally British Columbia’s economy was based on exploiting natural resources such as mining, lumber and fishing. Due to a change in the global economy in the 1990s it shifted to a more entrepreneurial, innovative intense economy. Innovation is the product of entrepreneurship which is directly linked to lower uncertainty avoidance.
In May of 2002, the University of British Columbia studied entrepreneurial activity in B.C. and compared it to other Canadian provinces. Their research showed that the province of B.C. is ready for greater entrepreneurial activity but that over-regulation may be stunting entrepreneurial activity in the province. During the late 1990s the number of new business starts in B.C. was higher than the Canadian national average. Thus, it shows lower uncertainty avoidance in B.C.
Uncertainty avoidance impact on decision making
This directly impacts decision making as it relates to risk taking and preparation in every form. A high scoring uncertainty avoidance country such as Japan actively makes decisions to constantly avoid risk. Decisions are only made after lengthy considerations with all plausible possibilities careful considered before action is taken. It was be advantage of being better informed but the disadvantage of being time consuming. Whereas in a country with a low uncertainty avoidance score such as Canada decisions are may much quicker with less considers and options accounted for before taking the plunge. This is a high risk, high reward strategy which can work well given the right entrepreneurial skills. Both nations could learn from each other, making reasonable quick decisions with the best information given time constraints.
Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations by By Geert H. Hofstede.