Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck
Florence Kluckhohn and Fred Strodtbeck developed the Values Orientation Theory (at Harvard University in 1961) that assumes that all people, everywhere and through the ages, have to overcome a number of problems (universal dilemmas) in order to survive.
The choices (basic assumptions) that are being made differ per culture. Strodtbeck’s and Kluckhohn’s universal dilemmas are:
1 Does a culture live in harmony with nature and environment or does it want to dominate it?
2 Is the culture focused on the past, present or future?
3 Is it a task-oriented culture or relationship-oriented? Are we a ‘doing’ culture or a ‘being’ culture?
4 Individual or collectivistic?
5 Concept of physical space: is it more private or public?
6 Human nature: are people good or bad by definition?
Explanations of the value orientations
- To dominate nature or live in harmony with nature? In cultures where nature is dominated, people survive by controlling nature e.g. by building dikes in the Netherlands. When the Dutch are unexpectedly confronted with a natural disaster, the public debate will be dominated for weeks by conversations about how they could have prevented this, and scientists receive a lot of funding to prevent the country from being ‘attacked’ by nature again. The Dutch build sturdy houses, resistant to rain, storms and lightning strikes. The Dutch solution to the universal dilemma (universal problem) ‘Does a culture live in harmony with nature and environment or do they want to dominate it?’ is the conviction that it is better to dominate nature. This is a basic value of which a society is convinced that it’s the best possible way to deal with that universal dilemma. In cultures where people live in harmony with nature, people survive without controlling it. They adapt to the given natural situations. Instead of building dikes, they build their house on poles. Holes in the road? Well, as long as you can still drive from A to B, that road does not have to be repaired.
- Past, present or future? A culture can be oriented towards the past, the present or the future.
- Past: traditions are important, inspiration through historical events, the past is a part of the identity of every person in that group. Russia is a country where the past is part of the collective identity. If you want to do business in Russia, it helps if you know something about Russian culture and history.
- Present: plans are made for the short term, items from the past are important, but they do not dwell on for too long. People live in the moment. For example, Belgium.
- Future: mainly concerned with goals in the near or far future. For example, the USA.
- Doing or Being culture: Task or relationship?
- Doing-cultures: performance and performing tasks are important. People set goals, they live to work and take actions. They have pleasure in working through the work itself, responsibilities, and earning a promotion (USA, Northern Europe). Keywords are: tasks, result-oriented, goal-oriented.
- Being-cultures: people are relationship-oriented. They work to live, have fun in working with nice colleagues (Africa, Southern Europe, South America). Relationships are the most important and are a condition for doing business in that culture. For example, the ING bank has had to work on the relationship with China for 15 years to obtain a permit to open offices in China. All this time they had to invest in that relationship without knowing whether it would ever be successful.
- Individual or collectivistic?
- Individual cultures believe that personal achievements and successes are important, people are more concerned with their own well-being. Children learn to be independent from an early age. To ask others for help is a sign of immaturity.
- Collectivist cultures believe that group interests, being able to trust each other and staying together is important. They teach children to be group-oriented. People find it pleasant to ask each other for help. Hofstede has used the same universal dilemma in his cultural dimension of individualism or collectivism.
- Is space public or private? What people regard as private or public space differs per culture and per subculture. In North America and Northern Europe people are much more used to private spaces, such as a private bedroom for children. These kinds of spaces are shared much more in Asia and Africa. Many families in Asian countries find it uncomfortable to sleep separately. There are also differences within subcultures. In many schools, students are not allowed to enter the teachers’ room. Teachers view this as a violation of their privacy.
- Are people good or bad by definition? The underlying universal dilemma is whether people are essentially good, or essentially bad. In practice this is difficult to trace within countries. Within societies there are subcultures that are convinced that the nature of the people is good or that the nature of the person is bad. This is mainly reflected in religious groups. Another great example is the locking of doors and windows of houses and barns. In the countryside you often see that people do not lock their doors, in urban areas the opposite is the case. People who live in the countryside generally have the stereotypical view that people in the city are bad. You see this difference between the countryside and cities in many countries.