Have you ever wondered what the underlying dynamics of Brexit are? Do you know why many Chinese say ‘YES’ when they mean ‘NO’ or ‘MAYBE’? Why do the Dutch speak in such a blunt way? At Itim International, we specialise in answering these questions to help you be more effective in any multicultural environment.

You are probably familiar with the RGB colour model which describes any colour on your computer in a combination of three scores (0 to 255) on the red, green and blue dimensions of colour.


The 6D model of national culture, a big data-based model developed by Prof Geert Hofstede and others, is conceptually very similar in that it visualizes the core values of any culture in a combination of scores on six dimensions of culture.


We all intuitively tend to combine countries where people behave in +/- the same way in groups.  Examples are:  Nordics, Anglo-Saxon countries, etc…


At Itim International, we do the same but in a data-based rather than intuitive way. Using the data of the 6D model, we have clustered 110 countries in 6 Culture ClustersTM with associated Mental Images.


The United Kingdom belongs to the Contest Cluster where the overriding values in society can be summarized with the following keywords: 

Competition, winner takes all, achievement, live to work, ambition, autonomy, decentralisation, individualistic, egalitarian, contracts more important than relationships, short-term focus and comfortable with uncertainty.


If you’ve ever seen the behaviour during Prime Minister’s question time in the UK parliament, you have a good idea of what we mean.  Most of Europe is more long-term oriented, more relationship oriented and has a higher need for structure and predictability.  These key differences are the underlying reasons for the ever-present tension between the UK and the rest of Europe.


China belongs to the Family Cluster where the overriding values in society can be summarized with the following keywords: Collectivist, hierarchical, long-term focus, centralisation, relationships more important than contracts, holistic view, high-context communication, harmony, loyalty and flexibility.


China’s collectivist nature, which requires harmony and good relationships to function well, is the reason why saying ‘NO’ is considered rude as it could endanger the relationship. One needs to pay attention to the atmosphere as well as the body language to correctly interpret which type of ‘YES’, ‘MAYBE’ or ‘NO’ is actually meant.


The Netherlands belong to the Network Cluster where the overriding values in society can be summarized with the following keywords: Consensus, win-win, quality of life, work to live, sympathy for the underdog, individualistic, decentralisation, social ethics.


The quest for a true win-win, requires each party to clearly communicate its position to enable the development of a real consensus.  This drive to communicate as clearly as possible is often misunderstood as pushy or even arrogant by people from other countries.



These Mental Images help you understand the different mindsets and allow you to better manage their implications related to cross-cultural:

• Leadership

• Teamwork

• Performance management

• etc.








Note: In a future article we will present the Hofstede Multi-Focus Model as a powerful tool to measure a corporate culture in clear and manageable numbers.


By Marc Jacobs, Christine Fornaroli & Tatjana von Bonkewitz, Associate Partners of Itim International and The Hofstede Centre.

Publié le 06 septembre 2017