Michael Minkov, Vesselin Blagoev, Todor Radev


      It is commonly believed that globalization creates cultural homogenization, reducing the existing cultural differences between modern nations. We take issue with this view and explain why cross-cultural training will remain an important part of management education.

         The Persistence of Cultural Differences Across the Globe
          Globalization is often perceived as a force that will obliterate national cultures, turning the world into a culturally homogeneous global village. This view has taken such strong hold in some academic headquarters that a new term has been coined for the result of cultural homogenization: "world culture" (Lechner, 2012). For instance, proponents of this idea indicate that "the educational innovations of modernizing states gave rise to a 'model' of education for others to follow" (Lechner, 2012, p. 2281).
          In fact, the observation that some sort of homogenization is taking place across the world predates globalization. More than 50 years ago, the authors of an influential treatise on the effect of industrial development (Kerr, Dunlop, Harbison, & Myers, 1960) pointed out that industrialization inevitably imposes some shared practices across the globe, such as professional management. Going even further in their abstract analysis, those authors stated that "The logic of industrialism will eventually lead us all to a common society where ideology will cease to matter" (p. 101).
            These views were never shared by all analysts. As a result of his study of "modernity" and its reflection on values, Inkeles (1981) concluded that there was "movement toward a common pattern only with regard to certain specific qualities identified as part of the syndrome of individual modernity. There are clearly many realms of attitude and value that are independent of the industrial organizational complex common to the advanced nations" (p. 11). Other critiques of the convergence hypothesis were published by Maurice (1976), Form (1979), and Smith and Bond (1993). Schumpeter (1942/2003) stated that social structures, types and attitudes do not change easily and may persist for centuries; hence convergence is implausible.
          At present, many lay observers find the cultural convergence hypothesis attractive. They point to the expansion of Western pop art, casual clothing, and fast food. However, these superficial cultural artifacts do not have a major impact on values and beliefs. Consequently, they do not have a sizeable effect on important societal characteristics such as religiousness, educational achievement, fertility rates, murder rates, suicide rates, HIV rates, road death tolls, alcohol and tobacco consumption, corruption, and so forth. Decades of analysis of the nationally representative World Values Survey have failed to reveal evidence of massive cultural convergence in values, beliefs, and societal norms across the globe (Inglehart, 2005).
          Inglehart (2008) studied cultural change and convergence across six West European countries. He compared national percentages of respondents who embraced a wide range of values, norms, attitudes and beliefs in Belgium, Italy, France, the Netherlands, West Germany, and the United Kingdom, measured from 1970 to 2006. His results (p. 135) show clearly that the cultural differences between the six countries were attenuated during the 36-year period of the study. However, the observed convergence was partial. The cultural differences between those countries

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did not disappear completely during the 36-year period. Most remarkably, all six countries at almost all times moved in the same direction on Inglehart's measures. Their positions fluctuated, but always in a fairly similar manner. As a result, the ranking of the six Western countries on Inglehart's measures was practically the same throughout the 36 years.
      The persistence of cultural differences in values, beliefs, norms, and attitudes across the globe, means that, being culture-bound, management ideologies and practices are not merging completely either. The leaders of Project GLOBE, the world's largest cross-cultural study in management, concluded that significant differences remain between American, European, and Japanese management (House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, & Gupta, 2004). We can add Islamic management to this list, with practices such as Islamic banking, and various other models.

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         As GLOBE leader House (2004) put it, "Globalization opens many opportunities for business, but it also creates major challenges. One of the most important challenges is acknowledging and appreciating cultural values, practices, and subtleties in different parts of the world. All experts in international business agree that to succeed in global business, managers need the flexibility to respond positively and effectively to practices and values that may be drastically different from what they are accustomed to".
      The idea that cultural differences may be associated with differences in management is not new. It is traceable at least to the 1960s, for instance the work of Haire, Ghiselli, and Porter (1966). A milestone in the development of this concept was set by Hofstede (1980) who studied the views of some 110,000 IBM employees in some 50 nations around 1970. He built a model of national cultural differences in management and society at large that made him the most-cited author in the field of cross-cultural analysis and earned him the 16th place in the Wall Street Journal ranking of the 20 most influential management thinkers of all times. He also wrote a revised version of his 1980 ground-breaking monograph (Hofstede, 2001) and three editions of a popular book for a wider audience, the latest of which is Hofstede, Hofstede, and Minkov (2010).
      Hofstede's work was followed by other large-scale cross-cultural studies in management: Smith, Dugan, and Trompenaars (1996), Smith, Peterson, and Schwartz (2002), Smith, Trompenaars, and Dugan (1995), van de Vliert and Janssen (2002) and more. The largest of all these studies, intended partly as a replication of, and improvement on, Hofstede's was Project GLOBE - a study of 17,370 middle managers in 951 organizations, operating in 59 countries, leading to a voluminous publication on cross-cultural differences in societies and organizations by House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, and Gupta (2004). Subsequently, an important collection of cross-cultural studies in management was put together by Smith, Peterson, and Thomas (2008).
      All these studies highlight the persistence of value differences across societies and their implications for cross-cultural management. They also find that endorsed leadership profiles and management practices certainly have similarities, yet there are important cross-cultural differences that international managers need to take into account.
These discoveries have produced a proliferation of publications in the cross-cultural field, an overabundance of academic and professional associations, including consulting companies, and a boom in the field of executive training and academic teaching. This situation has been exploited also by writers outside the academic domain, such as Fons Trompenaars and Richard Lewis, who have created impressionistic models of national culture and published popular books on cross-cultural management.   
     Cross-Cultural Awareness in Management Education: A Case Study         
      Led by the philosophy that cross-cultural awareness and respect are crucial traits of the successful international manager, we have made cross-cultural awareness a strong element of the MBA program at International University College, Bulgaria. Although the program is franchised by the Cardiff Metropolitan University in

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the United Kingdom, and its delivery in Sofia and Varna is supervised by that British institution, as well as external examiners, we have added a strong local element: an emphasis on cross-cultural awareness. Rather than relying exclusively on Anglo-American management philosophy, which dominates the most-read handbooks on management in Europe and beyond, we strongly emphasize the existence of other paths to successful value creation in business, both theoretically and through practical case studies.
      The main vehicle for teaching cross-cultural awareness on our MBA program is the syllabus unit called "People and Organizations". Essentially, this is a management course merging two traditional subjects - Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management - plus a strong emphasis on cultural differences in these domains. Students are expected to enhance their knowledge and skills in personality assessment, motivation, communication, teamwork, organizational culture, and leadership. Each of these spheres is analyzed through the prism of cross-cultural psychology and cross-cultural management, using state-of-the-art academic publications.
      As an example, students are asked to reflect on Maslow's hierarchy of needs and on Herzberg's two-factor motivation theory. Are these motivation models universally valid? Using data from the nationally representative World Values Survey, covering nearly 100 countries across the globe, the students usually reach the conclusion that Maslow's and Herzberg's models are culture-bound. They seem to describe the situation in the United States and other Anglo countries quite well, where personal achievement is often a leading motivator in the minds of many managers. But, as the World Values Survey data show, people in Germany, the Scandinavian countries, and Japan, value good human relationships in the workplace more than personal achievement. Thus, the upper part of Maslow's pyramid does not look quite the same in these countries as in the United States and Australia. Similarly, the primary concerns of job seekers in most developing countries are a good income and job security. In the richest countries, these concerns are much weaker. Job-seekers there tend to emphasize an important job that gives them a sense of meaning and good relationships.
      These research findings are applied to practical scenarios: analyses of real cases, leading to practical recommendations. The chief executive officer of an international company, working in an unfamiliar cultural surrounding, and without prior cross-cultural training, does not understand why his management team does not respond well to a commonly used American technique: management by objectives. Although the managers have the opportunity to set themselves high goals, strive to achieve them, and receive enormous bonuses, they do not seem motivated to follow this pathway. An anonymous survey shows that their priorities are the opposite of those of the chief executive officer: good human relationships in the workplace are more important to them than personal achievement that would allow them to claim superiority over their peers. The students are asked to suggest an action plan for the chief executive officer who obviously needs to reconsider his motivation strategy in the light of the local culture.            
      Additionally, the students watch and analyze didactic films on cross-cultural differences in organizational behavior and management, take tests, do group exercises, and analyze a variety of cases. All of these are permeated by the philosophy that there is no one best way to manage people that is valid and applicable in all cultural contexts. What works in the United States in a particular circumstance may be counterproductive in Iran or Japan. The goal of a modern international manager is not to find a universally best way to manage an organization and its people but to analyze the specific contexts in which his organization is operating and adapt to them.
      The same philosophy characterizes the other units of our MBA program, for instance Marketing. Despite the global expansion of many products and services, it is clear that they do not mean the same thing to people in all nations; consequently they cannot be marketed in the same way. A McDonald's restaurant is mostly

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a place for a quick lunch in the United States but in the 1990s a visit to a McDonald's in Eastern Europe was a demonstration of prestige - an opportunity to show financial success. Later, Western fast food chains like McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts became venues where parents organized birthday parties for their children. That was followed by a significant change in attitudes toward McDonald's, caused by publications on the negative health effects of fast food: high cholesterol levels, obesity, and more.
     It is noteworthy that in many countries, where traditional cuisines did not closely resemble standard McDonald’s recipes, the company experienced sales problems. Realizing the persistent cross-cultural diversity in consumer behavior, McDonald's has significantly diversified its local menus. This was achieved through extensive marketing research, analysis and planning – both strategic and tactical - at the main company level as well as at that of its’ subsidiaries. Studying such cases about well-known international companies, the students have an opportunity to understand and interpret the influence of the cultural environment and decide what management instruments might work better in a specific cultural contexts. We pay special attention to the topic of marketing mix strategies, which should differ significantly to match the local market conditions.
All these exercises should be planned, executed, and interpreted with the understanding that in our global competitive world “customers expect more, have more choices, and are less brand loyal” (Best, 2013, p.29). The same view is shared by many marketing scholars who discuss the cultural implications in consumer behavior (As examples of recent publications on this topic, see Armstrong & Kotler, 2013; Best, 2013, and  Kapferer, 2012). We also pay special attention to brand management and marketing communications.
        We realize that the knowledge of the MBA students cannot and should not be static, even if it is derived from recent academic findings and good current business practices. For that reason, we pay special attention to the Strategic Management and Change Management modules, where the students learn how to forecast, and prepare for, plausible changes in the environment. We share the view that the only constant in the current market development is change (Best, 2013, p.30) but even the changes that are technology-driven, and those backed by enormous marketing campaigns, will not succeed if the role of culture is not taken into account. Students must understand this to be able to manage companies in an efficient way.
      Using structured interviews and anonymous questionnaires, we have studied the quality of the learning process on our MBA program as perceived by the three cohorts of MBA graduates that our school has produced since the inception of the program in 2010. Altogether, about 100 MBA participants, many of whom work for international companies in Bulgaria or abroad, have taken part in this study. Our analysis of the data revealed that about 70 percent of the respondents perceive the strong cross-cultural element in the syllabus as a significant advantage. One of the reasons that they prefer our program to other offers in our region is precisely this emphasis on cross-cultural awareness in management and respect for culturally diverse values and practices.
Interestingly, we also found that although our MBA students are mostly practicing managers, business experts, and entrepreneurs, they appreciate the academic element that characterizes the program. Rather than relying on impressionism, the program emphasizes findings from sound scientific research in cross-cultural differences, published in leading journals or in monographs by renowned publishing houses. This makes the teaching material convincing and reliable.   
We believe that our experience could be beneficial to educators from other countries, as it is internationally relevant.

Armstrong, G. & Kotler, P. (2013). Marketing: An introduction, 11th. ed. Harlow: Pearson.
Best, R.(2013). Market-based management: Strategies for growing customer value and profitability. 6th ed. Harlow: Pearson.

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Van de Vliert, E., & Janssen, O. (2002). "Better than" performance motives as roots of satisfaction across more and less developed countries. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 33 (4), 380-397.

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