How was the Hofstede Culture in the Workplace Questionnaire created?

(John Bing):  A brief history is that the Hofstede Culture in the Workplace Questionnaire, or Hofstede CWQ as we call it, was developed after I discovered Geert Hofstede’s work in the 1980’s.  Starting with a 24-item paper and pencil questionnaire from items that Geert took from an early version of his Value Survey Module, and with his encouragement and approval, ITAP developed what has now become the gold standard of the online cultural profile instruments.

The current online application went through a number of changes from that early version. First, my son Eric, a statistician and IT specialist, helped improve the psychometric properties of the Hofstede CWQ and produced a formula that allowed us to produce charts showing individual and group results. Then we developed a bunch of questions which we tested against those which were producing the reports so that we could determine which items more reliably map to the cultural dimensions.


What has changed about the Hofstede CWQ over the years?

Some years ago we added the fifth Hofstede dimension and we have recently added the latest, the sixth, Indulgence vs. Restraint, which in a classical definition, might be described as the Epicurean vs. Confucian value systems.  What is also important has been the gradual strengthening and deepening of the Hofstede CWQ database, which is now a rich trove of information about respondents’ answers to the Hofstede CWQ questions. When combined with the extensive demographic data we have collected, we can now look at how values change both within and between countries. For example, in Germany and South Korea, women and men differ on the Individualism dimension quite markedly. Why? Our sample mostly covers those in the professions, so we are looking at women and men in the professions. One could, for example, hypothesize that to become successful in professions in societies where women were traditionally excluded, women are required to break out of group norms and express themselves more individually. Conversely, for men to be successful requires maintaining the group norms rather than breaking them.


What specifically is the relationship between Prof. Hofstede’s work and the Hofstede CWQ?

Within the past couple of years, we have found that the Hofstede CWQ correlates very well indeed with the Hofstede country results (although the country scores differ slightly in interesting ways). The correlation is important because it means that both the VSM, which is the database developed and used by Prof. Hofstede, and the Hofstede CWQ database represent a view of the same cultural phenomena. We were careful, with Prof. Hofstede’s help, to make sure we were looking at matched samples.


Give us some background on recent developments regarding the Hofstede Culture in the Workplace Questionnaire

We are very excited about the new developments regarding the application of the Hofstede CWQ.  Now that we have a robust database, we are able to compare samples of a single global company in different parts of the world and to use that data to facilitate improvements in communication, processes, and efficiencies.  Within the Hofstede CWQ application is a mapping system that takes the results from these groups and compares them on any two dimensions of the six Hofstede dimensions.

For example, imagine a firm with marketing departments across the world. In one country, the marketing department emphasizes individual achievement, and in another country, the marketing department is committed to an ethos of collective relationships.  How is it possible to effectively manage these two groups unless the firm itself is aware of the consequences of applying equal incentives?

Work that has recently been conducted by Catherine Mercer Bing with a large US financial institution with locations worldwide has produced action steps which allow these groups to more effectively carry out their responsibilities. This, in turn, strengthens the institution itself. This quantitative data approach to solutions mapping is a new and effective approach to global organizational change and improvement by increasing the value of the human element within the institution.


Why is this a new development?

This approach is the bridge between research on culture and application within companies. It provides useable, tangible information for organizations to improve their functional capabilities.  It also increases each participant’s understanding of their own cultural values and how they may differ from others, which is a benefit to the larger societies of which those individuals are apart. Although the use of cultural questionnaires within organizations is not new, but stretches back to the original development of the Hofstede CWQ in the 1980s, the bridge to improved practices within groups and teams is new. Only through the accumulation of a robust database and the development of a reliable and valid application, the Hofstede CWQ, has this been made possible.

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