In this paper, we will examine the concepts of culture and some salient cultural dimensions. We will then explain why it is important to understand cultural differences and how firms can cope with and/or manage such differences.
First of all, we tried to find some definitions about the meaning of culture in the literature. Culture has been defined in various ways by different people. Kluckholn (1951) described culture as "patterned ways of thinking, feeling and reacting, acquired and transmitted mainly by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievements of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts." Hofstede defined culture as "the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another."
We decided to combine these definitions with our opinion in order to form the following definition: "Culture is an progressing set of shared values, thinkings, attitudes, and a logical process which provides cognitive maps for people within a societal group to perceive, think, reason, act, react, and interact.
This definition implies that culture is dynamic".
In order to understand better this definition we would like to give an example of two American companies where two of us did an internship. Organizational or corporate culture can be reinforced through a strong organizational mission, commitment to organizational goals, and other visible symbols such as company lapel pins, and company songs, in the case of many Japanese organizations. Corporations such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard are reported to have strong corporate cultures where employees worldwide identify themselves closely with the organizational goals of the company. Strong corporate cultures can have a homogenizing effect on cross-national culture. Thus, there may be more observed similarities among IBM employees in the United States and in Japan as compared to Japanese employees at IBM and Matsushita, for instance.
After analyzing our interviews, we decided...