You must have read the title and you are thinking, “What does culture have to do with True Colors®?” I have been fascinated with both for some time now. Do countries have a collective personality? I believe they do. Just like people, every country around the world has its own personality. In fact every culture within that country has its own personality. This is very important for business people when they are preparing to travel to a new country very different from their own. Even if you are traveling for pleasure, wouldn’t it be easier to understand the personality of the country before you travel?
When a business person’s schedule requires frequent travel it is not only important to be mentally and physically prepared. It is equally important to have a good understanding of the culture and business customs of the country that you are doing business within. Many potential lucrative and mutually beneficial deals can fall apart due to a fundamental misunderstanding of another country’s business customs.
An understanding of personality types and how they can be generalized to a country can be valuable to a business person. There have been extensive studies done to show how certain countries have a specific MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) . MBTI can be complex and cumbersome, and this is why I will show how True Colors® can be an easier way for a business person to use as a tool to understand foreign business customs.
True Colors® is a personality identification model that uses the colours Blue, Gold, Green and Orange to explain the concepts of personality theory in a simple easy to remember method. The use of True Colors over other personality assessments for cultural understanding is of particular use to business people because it is easier to apply than the alternatives. The use of True Colors will help expedite the learning process dramatically by allowing the business person to understand the general culture and customs much easier, and this will hopefully lead to greater success in foreign business practices.
When conducting business internationally, the use of Geert Hofstede’s cultural indices and Edward T. Hall’s cultural dimensions can be an effective way to gain a good understanding of how different cultures can impact your business. The use of True Colors for cultural assessment is not meant to replace these famous indices, but to be used as supplementary. These indices are also a good method for deriving the True Color of a country, as demonstrated below.
Let’s look at some indices for Egypt:
Geert Hofstede’s Indices
PDI (Power Distance Index): 70
IDV (Individualism vs. Collectivism): 25
The Power Distance Index is the dimension that explains the culture’s attitude towards inequality. This dimension was defined by Hofstede as, “the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.” Egypt’s score is 70; this means that having a hierarchical order is culturally accepted. Centralization tends to be popular and subordinates expect to be told what to do.
The Individualism vs. Collectivism dimension is defined as, “the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members.” This dimension is commonly understood by defining how those within a society view themselves. This means whether people in a society view themselves as a collective or as individuals. Egypt’s score on this dimension is 25; this means that Egypt is considered to be a collective society. Loyalty is of utmost importance in a collective society, and this may even override other societal rules and regulations. Strong relationships and shared responsibility for fellow members of a group is also very important within a collective society. For business, it is important to understand that the management of organizations within a collective society is typically structured in groups, and employer/employee relationships are often perceived as similar to a family link. Hiring and promotion decisions are commonly decided by groups, and these decisions will often be based on criteria that pertain to how this will affect the group as a whole.
Using Edward T. Hall’s time dimensions can also help a business person gain a better understanding of the cultural practices of a country or region. Edward T. Hall’s time dimensions consist of two types: M- Time (Monochronic) and P-Time (Polychronic).
M-Time can be described as doing only one thing at a time. This involves planning and consideration. Cultures that operate using M-Time include Canada and the United States and within these cultures it is found that schedules, punctuality, and concepts like time management are very important. P-Time can be described as a culture where human interaction is valued much higher. Punctuality tends to be less important in cultures that focus on P-Time. Egypt is a country that is oriented around P-Time.
From the above, it can be determined that Egypt is predominantly Blue and Orange on the True Colors spectrum. This is determined because of their value in relationships, and the impact that relationships can have on a business deal, meeting, or negotiation. This means that to be successful in Egypt there must be a strong, specific focus on gaining and maintaining business relationships just as you would with personal relationships. It is very difficult to do business in Egypt without already having contacts within Egypt. Egypt is also a pretty chaotic country, and people jump from one event to another with no regard for time, yet they somehow get things done through shortcuts. If you think of how a Blue and Orange person would behave and try to draw broad brush strokes to a country, then this will be Egypt.
Viewing Egypt as Blue and Orange can help sum up the cultural nuances and variations that can be found within it. It may also help prepare a person for what to expect when doing business in Egypt. This is beneficial because this gives business people an easy way to quickly infer certain characteristics about a culture.
It is very important to note that these are generalizations and although they do reflect the culture overall, there are obvious limitations when using them to describe something as vast as an entire country’s culture. It is still important to understand that individual experience and variations within an organization may differ. It is still important to always be prepared and to know how to work in a different culture when conducting international business.
In conclusion, knowing Egypt’s culture is dominantly Blue and Orange makes it easier for someone who understands True Colors to know what to expect culturally when in Egypt for business. This method proves to be easy, less time-consuming, and very useful to determine a country’s True Color to assist with international business.
Can this be applied to the USA, Canada, or any other country you visit?
Think about it!
This post is an excerpt from an article that was published in the International True Colors Association (ITCA) Newsletter in August 2013.