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Reaching a Global Online Audience by Matthew McCool

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Heuristic

Although culture has been empirically examined since the early 20th century, quantitative data remained more or less non-existent. That changed in the 1960s when Geert Hofstede, then a researcher at IBM, set out to measure employee satisfaction. After 70-plus countries and more than 60,000 responses, Hofstede happened across a surprising pattern. Although Hofstede had no intention of looking at cultural values, he soon recognized that employees revealed an astonishing consistency in their responses.[12]

Hofstede stumbled onto a fascinating area of cultural inquiry, a topic he continues to study. Although Hofstede now ranks at the top of the Social Sciences Citation Index, his work has also been controversial. Some people say the nebulous world of culture simply can't be reduced to numbers; that IBM employees can't be abstracted to an entire country; and that culture is a rapidly moving social system.

All of this commentary is reasonable, but none of these complaints are especially problematic. First, Hofstede never reduced culture to multivariate data. His instruments were simply one of many means for understanding the deepest dimensions of culture, and they comprise only a point in the overarching analysis of culture. Second, Hofstede's IBM data has been replicated many times by Hoppe, Shane, Merritt, de Mooij, Mouritzen, Hampden-Turner, Trompenaars, and van Nimwegen. While patterns may reveal themselves in the strangest places, exceptions are always easy to find. But exceptions ...

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