Monthly Culture Inspiration: October 2018

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.

Visual: Erin Meyer’s Culture Map


Erin Meyer grew up in Minnesota, lived in Botswana and India, and is now a professor at INSEAD in France. She married a Frenchman and is raising two children in France. All to say she has a great background for her current role, which is teaching cross-cultural management. To help people negotiate the complexity of the global workplace, Meyer wrote a book called The Culture Map. In the book, she shares eight scales representing the management behaviors where cultural gaps are most common. By comparing the position of one nationality relative to another on each scale, you can decode how your culture and your colleagues’ cultures influences your day-to-day collaboration.

Here are the eight scales:

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Let’s look at the communication scale. In low-context cultures, “good communication is precise, simple, explicit, and clear. Messages are understood at face value. Repetition is appreciated for purposes of clarification, as is putting messages in writing.” In high-context cultures, “communication is sophisticated, nuanced, and layered. Messages are often implied but not plainly stated. Less is put in writing, more is left open to interpretation, and understanding may depend on reading between the lines.”

The US is one of the the most explicit or low-context cultures. American conversations require relatively little reading between the lines. As Business Insider says, “This is not surprising for a young country composed of immigrants that prides itself on straight-talking. Japan and other East Asian countries represent the other extreme… Thus Americans in Japan should pay attention to what's not being said; while Japanese in America should brace themselves for direct language.”

I highly recommend reading the book so you can learn about the other scales!

Book: Imagine It Forward by Beth Comstock

Beth Comstock, former Vice Chair and head of marketing and innovation at GE, just wrote Imagine It Forward, about how she navigated the challenges of transformational change and leadership at GE. It’s a wonderfully personal book with lots of good stories. In the book, she writes about how she developed something called The Culture Club:

The Culture Club was “a multi-level group in my business unit to give me feedback, and more specifically, be a way to drive culture change together. I needed our teams to hear directly from me that it was okay to test and learn, and they needed me to hear from them why it wasn’t so simple. We met quarterly. I challenged the team to bring me one thing I didn’t want to hear— something I or other leaders were doing that stood in the way of meaningful speed and change. I discovered a lot of time and energy was going into keeping reports, meetings, expectations alive that I had long forgotten about. We used these discussions as a way to reset expectations, drive candor, and hold one another accountable for change. Honestly, I wish I had done this much earlier.”

I love this idea. Leaders, steal this!

Article to Bookmark: The 10 best Quartz at Work stories about managing your career

I eagerly read anything by Quartz at Work. They consistently have great articles that are full of actionable ideas. This article is a compendium of their best stories about how to manage your career.