Theodore Levitt: Marketing Myopia

Theodore Levitt’s principal contribution to management was in lifting marketing up from a functional place in business to a strategic role. So it is perhaps surprising that he is often remembered as the man who coined the term ‘globalisation’. Mis-remembered*, it turns out. The greater irony is that he simply brought the word to prominence. But that shows the impact of his writing; in particular a series of classic articles for the Harvard Business Review, which he edited from 1985 to 1990.

Theodore Levitt, 1925-2006

Theodore Levitt, 1925-2006

Short Biography

Theodore ‘Ted’ Levitt was born in Germany, in 1925. His parents moved the family to America in 1935, and Levitt served in the War. He earned his Bachelor’s degree at Antioch College and went on to do a Ph.D. in economics at Ohio State University.

After time as a consultant, and then teaching at the University of North Dakota, Levitt joined the Harvard business school in 1959. There, he quickly started teaching marketing, despite having no formal education in the topic. But in the following year, 1960, he published a landmark article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), which he descried as a manifesto.

Marketing Myopia

In Marketing Myopia, Levitt argued that corporations should not think of themselves as producers of goods or services. Instead, they are ‘buyers of customers’ who create goods and services to tempt customers into a commercial relationship. Companies are organisms that create and maintain customers. Indeed, in his 1983 book, The Marketing Imagination, he summed up his primary thesis as In 1983, by defining corporate purpose as:

to create and keep a customer

Put that way, it is easy to follow Levitt’s argument that marketing needs to pervade a company’s strategy and provide a counterbalance to excessive focus on production and operations. He gave the often cited example of railways. In thinking about their purpose, they should stop considering themselves as providers of a railway and its services, and start to think of themselves as organisations whose role is to move people from where they are to where they want to be.

It is worth noting that Levitt was influenced (as are so many twentieth century management thinkers) by Peter Drucker. Drucker argued that, from a customer’s point of view, marketing isn’t a function: it is the business. Let’s just look at Apple!

Marketing Matrix

Theodore Levitt: Marketing Matrix

Theodore Levitt: Marketing Matrix

To underscore his idea, Levitt introduced the idea of a marketing matrix, that charts a company’s inward orientation against its outward orientation to its customer, with the top right cell representing the ideal.

His 1976 HBR article, The Industrialization of Service, argued that we need to apply the same rigour of repeatability, monitoring and quality control to customer services, as we do to production. He also introduced the now commonplace concept of ‘Relationship Marketing’ – the activity designed to keep customers and extend your relationship with them. This has, of course, spawned the whole discipline (and software market) of CRM: Customer Relationship Management.

The Globalization of Markets

For my third of Levitt’s big ideas, I have to come back to globalisation, which he addressed in his 1983 HBR article, The Globalization of Markets. Here, he argues that the two ‘vectors’ of technology and globalisation would shape the world. Now, in 2016, it is hard to argue with that conclusion. Indeed, he thought that it would be technological advances that would drive marketplace changes towards global uniformity. To survive and outcompete rivals, corporations would need to harness the efficiencies of standardisation. These would outweigh the desirability for customers of local customization in a competitive sense. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Starbucks, Toyota, Amazon, and Samsung.


Theodore Levitt talking about Global Markets

You may also enjoy the Marketing Pocketbook and the CRM Pocketbook (CRM: Customer Relationship Management).

* Even the New York times got this wrong. Their obituary for Levitt was titled ‘Theodore Levitt, 81, Who Coined the Term ‘Globalization’, Is Dead’, but in a subsequent erratum, they noted, ‘and while he published a respected paper in 1983 popularizing the term, he did not coin the word. (It was in use at least as early as 1944 in other senses and was used by others in discussing economics at least as early as 1981.)


Alfred Chandler: Business History

It’s just a few people who could claim to have invented an academic discipline, but one who could, with some justice, is Alfred D Chandler. He was a historian who studied business, and in so doing, he inferred large historical patterns that still inform our thinking.

Alfred Chandler

Alfred Chandler, 1918 – 2007

Short Biography

Alfred DuPont Chandler was born in 1918 into a Delaware family that had commerce in its blood. In one branch of his family was grandfather Henry Poor, of Standard and Poors, and in another was the duPont family. He studied for a Masters degree at Harvard College before the war, where he was a friend of John F Kennedy. After service in a non-combat role, he returned to Harvard to finish his Masters and earn his PhD with a study of Henry Poor and the coming of the American railroads..

An appointment to MIT allowed him to study more large corporations in depth. His analysis of duPont, General Motors, Standard Oil, and Sears Roebuck & Co led to the publication in 1962 of the first of his three most noteworthy books (among over 25 in total): Strategy and Structure.

He also worked for a while at Johns Hopkins University, before returning Harvard in 1970, as the Isidor Strauss Professor of Business History at the Harvard Business School. There, he wrote his second major work, 1977’s The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business. This exceptional work won Chandler the Pulitzer Prize for History, and was the first business book to be recognised with a Pulitzer Prize. The title is a deliberate reply to Adam Smith, whose ‘invisible hand’ is the market. We’ll see what Chandler was referring to in a moment.

In 1990, Chandler published the last of his three major books, Scale and Scope: Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism. In this he shows that it is not just scale of operations that bestows big economies and hence competitive advantage. It is also scope – capturing a diverse spread of markets early on. Uncharacteristically, Chandler looked to economics and borrowed the term ‘first mover advantage’.

Having retired from the Harvard faculty in 1989, Chandler continued to work, write and comment on changes in business, and was a visiting professor at numerous institutions. He died in May 2007.

Themes of Alfred Chandler’s Work

Chandler’s approach of wide-ranging comparative analysis to find historical patterns of evolution and change initially encountered a lot of resistance from the academic business community. These academics favoured using economic and quantitative analysis to build their theories, but Chandler was able to change many (though not all) attitudes. Today’s business school focus on case studies and the rise to prominence of academics and writers like Jim Collins.

Strategy before Structure

The primary thesis of Chandler’s ‘Strategy and Structure‘ is that strategy must come before (and therefore dictate) the structure of the corporation. His historical observations led him to conclude that market forces need to drive shifts in the way organisations evolve, and he was able to predict the increasing trend for decentralisation that continues, in the largest businesses, today.

More recently, academic and business commentators have disagreed. Tom Peters observes that it is structure that determines which strategy a corporation will select, and Richard Tanner Pascale argued that Chandler assumed that organisations act rationally. They don’t, and he also notes that organisational structures play a big role in shaping strategy.

Trust Gary Hamel to sort it out, by seeing the subtlety of the competing views. He notes that the two are intertwined: new challenges lead to new structures, and new structures present new challenges. He concludes:

‘Few historians were prescient. Chandler was.’

Arguably, Chandler is, along with Igor Ansoff, one of the founding advocates of the study of business strategy.

Professional Management

Chandler also charted the rise of professional management; first in Strategy and Structure and then, more fully, in The Visible Hand. He saw managerially led corporations in the US rise with the growth of the railways and the need for complex, geographically-spread, systems. These first arose within the railway companies, and then in the corporations that grew nationally, due to the opportunities that long-distance transport offered.

It was the visible hand of an organisation’s managers that replaced Smith’s invisible hand of the market as a major driver of the structure of a modern business.

Further Reading

I rarely cite another website for further reading about our Management Thinkers, but in this case, I am compelled by the excellence of the article at the Strategy + Business site. I have deliberately avoided borrowing from it. If you are interested in Chandler, this should be your next port of call.


Rosemary Stewart: Practical Management

Rosemary Stewart studied management extensively, in the UK. Rather than revolutionary, her ideas serve to underpin the day-to-day challenges real managers face in the real world.

Rosemary Stewart

Rosemary Stewart

Short Biography

Rosemary Stewart was born in London, England, in 1924, and grew up first in Sussex, and then moved to Saskatoon, Canada, where she finished her secondary education. She studied economics at the University of British Columbia and then returned to England in 1945, after graduation (and after the war), to study Social Psychology at the London School of Economics, where she also won her doctorate in Management Studies.

She joined the Acton Society Trust as a researcher, and rose to become its director. There, she researched the challenges of large organisations and, in particular, of the newly nationalised British industries. Her interest persisted and she is best known for her studies into and analysis of Britain’s National Health Service. While at the Acton Society Trust, she worked with Joan Woodward, and Reg Revans was also a researcher there.

After seven years, she joined the new Oxford Centre for Management Studies, which became Templeton College, where she was made a Fellow and then, in 1992, upon her retirement, an Emeritus Fellow. Her long-time interest in healthcare management matured when, in 1996, she became the first Director of the newly founded Oxford Health Care Management Institute.

Rosemary Stewart died in 2015.

The Reality of Management

Rosemary Stewart was a prolific author, although most of her books have fallen out of print. Her three most notable books are still available:

All of her books have a focus on real, day-to-day management challenges, pitched firmly at middle managers. They help managers navigate the choices they need to make and the structures within which they work.

They are neither heavy-weight academic tomes, nor lightweight populist handbooks, and so are ideal for the interested, thinking manager, who wants ideas to help her or him to be effective at work.

Choices for the Manager

In the latest of Stewart’s three classic books, she fully articulates the model with which she is most closely associated. She suggested that management effectiveness arises from dealing well with demands and constraints, and, as a result, making good choices.

Demands, Constraints, & Choices - Rosemary Stewart

Demands, Constraints, & Choices – Rosemary Stewart

The diagram sums up 15 years of Stewart’s research.


Demands on a manager set out what they must do; their responsibilities or duties. But they also  include the demands we make upon ourselves, alongside those imposed by your organisation, manager, peers, and external players, like customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.


These are the factors that will also limit a manager’s scope for choices. If anything, they have grown in number since Stewart originally wrote her list. Whilst we arguably have more technology choices, and more choices of where to outsource work to, she did not account these as constraints. Rather, using the one technology available, in the one location it was sited was something she took as a given.


What everyone in a creative role knows is that constraints don’t just limit choices, they make them clear and give us scope for innovation. But managers do have a lot of freedom about how they work with the resources they have. How well you exercise these choices will dictate your performance as a manager.

Jean-Claude Larréché: Marketing Momentum

Why is it that some of the most successful companies spend surprisingly small percentages of their revenue budgets on marketing? The answer, if you think about it, is obvious: as total revenue income goes up, if you are a successful business, you get more bang for your marketing buck. They may be spending a lot, but the proportion is lower.

So, how do you get your business to this enviable position? The answer, says INSEAD Professor, Jean-Claude Larréché, is momentum. Some products do not need to be aggressively marketed to deliver superior sales performance: instead, their fit with customers’ needs and desires is so great, that they gain a momentum of their own.

Jean-Claude Larreche

Jean-Claude Larreche

Short Biography

Jean-Claude Larréché was born in 1947 and studied electronic engineering at INSA in Lyon, where he was awarded a bachelor’s degree in 1968. He followed this with an MSc in Computer Science at the University of London (1969), and an INSEAD MBA, in 1970. He then went on to research marketing modelling at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, where he was awarded a PhD in 1974.

Larréché’s research led him to develop a now widely used marketing simulation, MarkStrat, and his growing expertise in the modelling of how marketing works led to a non-executive appointment to the board of Reckitt & Coleman (now Reckitt Benckiser), that he held from 1983 to 2001.

In 1982, he returned to INSEAD as Professor of Marketing, becoming The Alfred H. Heineken Chaired Professor of Marketing in 1993. He continues to hold this role. Whilst collaborating in a number of books, Larréché’s most significant publication is his 2008 book, The Momentum Effect.

The Momentum Effect

Larréché differentiates between ‘upstream marketing’ and ‘downstream marketing’. Upstream marketing is designed to start the process of product or service awareness among appropriate prospects, and allow the business to refine their product or service offering, to meet potential buyers’ needs. You do this with customer insight and content marketing tactics. Downstream marketing is the communication and promotion that puts your products and services to the market, to generate purchasing intent.

The key, Larréché asserts, is to divert funds from downstream to upstream marketing, to ensure that you have a product or service that is so attractive to customers, that it creates its own momentum. The obvious example he cites is Apple’s marketing of the iPhone and iPad ranges.

Larréché’s book sets out his 8 component ‘Momentum Strategy’, which he summarises in a diagram like this one:

Twin Engines of Momentum - Larreche

Twin Engines of Momentum – Larreche

Here, Larréché separates out the design and execution (or build-sell-support) components of product development, giving equal weight to the two sides. He also shows these two components as interacting cycles. The cyclical metaphor is an important aspect to note: Larréché argues strongly for our continuing refinement of our offering, to continue to drive momentum.

Here is Larréché talking about his ideas in an InSEAD video

Larréché has transcended his earlier career focus on marketing. With The Momentum Effect, he is really talking about business strategy, and placing his ideas about successful marketing at the heart. You can get a real sense of this in this interview, where he answers some excellent challenging questions, including about how companies lose momentum.

Tony Buzan: Mind Mapping

The title of Tony Buzan’s first book, mirroring his BBC television series, set a manifesto for the work he has pursued vigorously for over 40 years. If there is one thing that Tony Buzan enjoins us all to do, it is to Use Your Head. And he has become one of the very foremost articulators of a toolset to help us. One of his tools, the Mind Map, is now a part of our culture.

Tony Buzan

Tony Buzan

Short Biography

Tony Buzan was born in 1942, in North London. There, he grew up until, in 1954, the family moved to Canada, and he continued his youth in Vancouver. He attended the University of British Columbia, where he took a double first in Psychology, English, Maths and General Sciences. He went on to study for a masters degree at Simon Fraser University, completing his studies in 1966.

From there he returned to England. After a spell as a teacher, he became editor of The International Journal of MENSA (1969-71), and continued a project to develop his understanding of how we can use our minds to best effect. He had already developed techniques that gave him a prodigious memory and an astonishing reading speed.

In 1973, he worked with the BBC to present a ten part series called Use your Head. The spin off book, of the same name was an instant best-seller, quickly going into the first of many reprints. The current (2010) edition of Use Your Head remains a best-seller, but looks very different to my 1982 reprint. This doubtless reflects the huge developments in brain science, and the evolution of Buzan’s thinking. Title aside, this is not the same book!

What has followed is a series of books that must number nearly a hundred by now (no, I haven’t counted), along with constant rounds of speaking and instructing, often with some of the largest and most prestigious companies and institutions. Whilst Buzan’s writing and thinking roams widely over the whole range of learning skills and mental disciplines, there are three topics to which he constantly returns:

  • speed reading
  • memory
  • mind mapping

Of these, Mind Mapping has a special place. He has written far more about this than anything else, and it is with this technique that his name is virtually synonymous. Indeed, he holds the trademark for the term ‘Mind Map’ in a number of jurisdictions. In more recent years, he has seized the initiative in a crowded market for mind mapping software, creating his own software implementation of the tool he popularised.

Mind Mapping

Whilst Buzan refined and popularised Mind Maps, the underlying idea of a concept map is old. There are many variants in use, with differing layouts and approaches, from Work Breakdown Structures to Fishbone Diagrams.

In developing his guidelines for producing Mind Maps, Buzan tried to tap into as many modes of thinking as he could, using the best knowledge of how our brains process information, that was available in the early 1970s.

His Mind Mapping approach combines words, images, colour, shapes, spacial organisation, symbols, size cues, sequencing, positional cues and logic. They are therefore a rich representation of a connected set of ideas, which can help our thinking in many ways:

  • Pattern forming to create connections and insights
  • Ordering and organising ideas, to build linkages and distinctions
  • Learning through making connections and seeing relationships
  • Enhancing memory by tying together multiple visual and spatial modes
    (and linking these to the kinaesthetics of drawing the mind map, for the creator)
  • Harnessing creativity through finding surprising connections
  • Powerful information storage because note-taking becomes non-linear and multi-modal

Mind maps come in all sorts of shapes and sizes…

Mind Maps

Mind Maps come in all shapes and sizes

How to Create a Mind Map

There are many prescriptions for a creating a Mind Map. Here is my approach

  1. Choose the largest available piece of blank paper and some really nice pens and pencils
    The perfect shape paper is a square, but if you use an oblong sheet, start with it in landscape orientation. Feeling good about the quality of the paper and pens will help you savour the process and a blank sheet imposes nothing on your own thought process.
  2. Start with a central image depicting your theme or topic. An image can be much more powerful than words, especially if colourful, witty and bold. If you choose to use words, make these colourful, witty and bold, with interesting, 3D lettering. Use images, symbols and doodles throughout.
  3. From the central theme, draw big branches to the main associated ideas or sub-themes. It is the associations you make and the structuring that you choose that are most important: not the ones from your source. Your source may think differently to you. For the main branches, make them thicker than the lesser branches you will draw later. Curves and colour can add interest and impact. Label these lines with key words and little pictures
  4. From the main branches, split off smaller sub-branches to capture subsidiary ideas and divisions of the subject. Use different fonts and sizes to indicate importance – perhaps UPPER CASE for main branches and lower case for smaller ones. Use colour to group ideas and colour or size can denote importance . Highlighters and boxes can add powerful emphasis, as can pictures and symbols.

Mind Mapping Software

There is an astonishing array of software tools available, for computers, tablets and mobile devices. iMindMap is Buzan’s own, with prices ranging from free to very expensive. Some integrate well with other applications, some stand alone. Some are basic and follow Buzan’s guidelines closely, others are quirky. Some offer exceptionally rich graphics, others have little more than basic symbols and lines. You pays your money (or not – some are free to try, even to use) and you makes your choice.

Mind Mapping Books

There are a huge array and many by Buzan himself, either alone or in collaboration. Two to highlight are:

The Power of a Mind to Map: Tony Buzan at TEDxSquareMile

As you know, here at Pocketblog, we are big TED fans. Here’s Tony Buzan…

Deborah Kolb: Shadow Negotiation

Deborah Kolb is an academic who has chosen a precise area of study and contributed to our insights. She has examined the intersection of leadership, negotiation, and gender, to better understand how women can negotiate for the conditions that will allow them to lead successfully.

I don’t often editorialise, but at a time when a rise in women in national and global leadership roles attracts much comment, it does seem as though any work that will allow men and women  an equal footing in leadership must be a good thing. Fifty per cent of the talent pool for leadership roles is systemically under-represented. When women hold leadership roles it is still seen by many as worthy of remark. Deborah Kolb’s work may help women to compete more fairly to secure the leadership roles they deserve.


Deborah Kolb

Deborah Kolb

Very Short Biography

Deborah Kolb was awarded  a BA in History and Economics at Vasser College in 1965, and went on to start a PhD in Organisational Studies and Labour Relations at the MIT Sloan School of Management. While studying for her doctoral thesis (which she defended successfully in 1981) she took an academic appointment at Simmons College, becoming Deloitte Ellen Gabriel Professor for Women and Leadership in 2006. Since 2010, she has held the chair with Emerita status.

Kolb’s work on negotiation and gender came to prominence with her 2000 book ‘Shadow Negotiation: How Women Can Master the Hidden Agendas That Determine Bargaining Success‘, which she co-wrote with Judith Williams. This was widely praised and one of Harvard Business Review’s top ten business books of 2000. Her 2015 book, ‘Negotiating at Work: Turn Small Wins into Big Gains‘ was also well received and rated as one of the best books on negotiation of that year.

From 1991 to 1994, Kolb also served as Executive Director of Harvard Law School’s Project on Negotiation (Founded by William Ury and Roger Fisher), where she remains on the faculty, with Ury and Amy Cuddy.

Shadow Negotiation

When we negotiate, whether it is a formal contractual negotiation, a career stage, or just for a role in our organisation,  Kolb describes a second negotiation running in parallel: a Shadow Negotiation.

Alongside the formal discussion, each negotiator will also be trying to put their own interests and needs to the fore. They will be promoting their opinions, and trying to win the co-operation of the other person. This shadow negotiation often determines the outcome of the primary bargaining process, yet women often fare poorly here, no matter how well prepared they are for the structured negotiating process.

Kolb suggests that traditionally women have not fared well because they often miss the  moments in a negotiation, where the surface position is actually negotiable. They ‘take no for an answer’ rather than as a new bargaining position. Women’s more natural collaborative approach can also harm their shadow negotiation. In trying  to be responsive to the other side’s position, they can be interpreted as accommodating it, and making concessions, which is seen as weak.

The result is women’s outcomes from negotiations are poorer in terms of cash, perks, prestigious assignments, or roles in decision-making, than those of their male colleagues.

So Kolb would argue that women need to spot these looming acts of self-sabotaging the shadow negotiation, by being aware of how other people’s approaches can trigger them. The research that Kolb and Williams present, in their book, suggests three strategic levers to guide the shadow negotiation. These seem equally valuable to men and women.

  1. Power Moves
  2. Process Moves
  3. Appreciative Moves

If all of this sounds a little like the exercise of political acumen, read on. It is!

Power Moves

These are the strategies that get you to the formal negotiating table.  The moves are:

  • to offer incentives that show the other party the value of negotiating
  • to enlist a coalition of allies who will support you
  • create pressure by showing the risks of the status quo

Process Moves

These strategies ensure that the bargaining process works effectively for the negotiator, by setting the right ground rules. You can do this by getting your idea into the discussion early, before any conflict can cause your counter-party to be deaf to it. Ideally, anchor the negotiation around your point of view before it starts. You could also reframe the negotiation process as being about something the other person deeply values. Finally, you can use behind-the-scenes lobbying to build consensus in parallel with the formal negotiation.

Appreciative Moves

These are trust-building strategies that can unlock deadlock. They move the surface and shadow negotiations away from adversarial, by appreciating the other person’s concerns and values. The authors suggest:

  • Helping others to save face
  • Keeping the dialogue going, through deadlock. Stop trying to get agreement and focus on communicating concerns and aspirations
  • Look for the points of view that may break the deadlock, by setting a new direction for discussions

Can we become better negotiators?

Without a doubt, yes. This is the mission of the Harvard Project on Negotiation. Deborah Kolb, as a significant contributor to that, has a lot to teach us.

Recommended reading:

Geert Hofstede: Cultural Dimensions

With the advent of the internet, we may feel like we are living in some form of global village. But if we allow that to translate into a belief that we are all the same, we will find ourselves running into problems. Each culture is different and these lead to differences in value. So when we try to communicate with one another, if we misread those cultural values, we can readily end up with misunderstandings, disputes, or conflict.

Dutch engineer and social scientist, Geert Hofstede, studied the systematic differences in national cultures and identified four, then five, then six dimensions on which to describe those differences.

Geert Hofstede

Geert Hofstede

Short Biography

Hostede was born in 1928, and grew up in The Hague, in the Netherlands. Although he went to study for an MSc in Mechanical Engineering at Delft University, in 1953, he had already had early experiences travelling to England and Indonesia, after technical college, which were to put him on the track of study cultures as a social psychologist. It was in post war England that he describes experiencing culture shock – his surprise at the difference between England and Holland, despite the geographic proximity and shared historical experiences.

After University, Hofstede spent two years with the Dutch army, and then ten in three commercial organisations, learning the craft of management. The third of these was IBM, where he founded the Personnel Research Department in 1965, which he led until 1971. It was during this time that he studied part-time for his PhD in Social Psychology at Groningen University.

It was also during this time that he gathered data on values and cultural outlook from 100,000 IBM employees around the world. This was to form the basis of his research, first published in Hofstede’s 1980 book, Culture’s Consequences. This compared cultural norms, behaviours and values across different countries. He originally identified 4 dimensions, which he later increased to five.

In 1980, he co-founded the Institute for Research on Intercultural Cooperation, which is now located at Tilburg University. He was its first director, until he retired in 1993.

Just before retirement, he revisited his research and the IBM data, writing Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind with Gert Jan Hofstede and Michael Minkov. Minkov’s own work led the group to include a sixth cultural dimension.

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions

Hofstede originally described four cultural dimensions, which he expanded to six incorporating research by Michael Harris Bond into long-term orientation, and Michael Minkov into indulgence and restraint.

These six cultural dimensions are:


This measures the tendency for society members to prefer being part of a strong group. Western societies such as those of Northern Europe and North America tend to be more individualistic, whilst Latin America and Asia have more collectivist cultures.

Uncertainty Avoidance

Some societies are more tolerant of ambiguity and more accepting of change. Others enforce behavioural norms and regulations strongly, to suppress change. In Europe, Southern and Eastern countries, including Germany, are more avoidant, whilst the Anglophone and Nordic countries are more accepting. Chinese cultures have low scores for uncertainty avoidance.

Power Distance

This measures inequalities of power within the society, and the level of unquestioned authoritarianism. Traditional societies and societies with strong religious adherence seem also to have high scores, such as in Asia, Latin American and Africa. Northern European countries have lower scores.

Masculinity – Femininity

This dimension measures assertiveness, desire for material gain, and tendency to honour competitive personas, against a more empathic, caring and co-operative culture. This varies widely across continents, with Scandinavian countries strongly to the Feminine end of the spectrum, and Anglophone countries strongly Masculine.

Long-term Orientation

Far Eastern countries like China are archetypes of very long range mind-sets, while Africa and the Muslim world, along with Anglophone countries are much shorter term in their outlook.

Indulgence – Self-restraint

This measures the extent to which people seek immediate gratification and pleasure, as opposed to a more disciplined, ascetic outlook, which strongly enforces social norms. Latin America and the Western countries tend to be more indulgent, whilst Asian countries and the Muslim world tend to be more restrained.


Hofstede’s work is not without its stern critics. Whilst I am unqualified to judge it against these, one criticism seems to be self-evidently valid. Hofstede’s original work was based on his IBM survey data. Whilst this did indeed span very many national cultures, the survey set was highly dominated by white collar males – the sales and engineering  employees of IBM in the 1960s and 1970s. We have to question the representativeness of that sample.

And, whilst the cultural descriptions Hofstede’s work allocates to different nations ring true; we must also question how far this takes us from stereotyping. However, Hofstede’s work does find practical application in International commerce, particularly in the fields of marketing, communications, and negotiation.

Hofstede’s work has also been applied to organisational cultures, but this seems to be an extension beyond his original research base. For a stronger link to organisational cultures, we need to look at the work of another Dutchman, Fons Trompenaars, whose model of 14 cultural polarities is also widely used.

A Wide-ranging Interview with Geert Hofstede

You may enjoy the Cross Cultural Business Pocketbook.