Learning About a Culture

Learning about a culture can be a daunting task. After all, as business students, our focus tends to be fixated on the tangible (which can be measured), easily seduced by the simplicity of thinking that the sum of the whole can be studied just by looking its parts. Thus, I expected our class on cultural analysis to be reductionist, where we would study culture from the perspective of the sum of the components that make it (i.e. language, customs, political systems etc). Furthermore, I thought it was ironic, that we would be studying cultures using our own self-reference criterion of ‘North American academics’, which is couched with its own biases. So, could we really study a culture as it is when our own cultural biases influence how and what we analyze?
With this strong assumption that culture couldn’t be studied in its entirety from a textbook; I was both affirmed in my assumption but also surprised. Morrison’s description of Turkey was the reductionist list of “do’s and don’ts” which I expected. His analysis was a quick and dirty with many nuggets of valuable information for the time-compressed international manager. In other words it was clear, specific and actionable but at the cost of depth and nuance. In drawing the parallel to the iceberg model, the Morris reading would be the tip of the iceberg, as it lacked depth in conveying the causes and inter-relationships between factors. As mentioned in class, the pitfall to this way of thinking is that it may box-in people’s thinking into categories of “right” and “wrong” and prevent one from being flexible and apprehensive towards applying judgment. For example, the Canadian corporate environment values professional dress-code but it is more helpful for a foreign manager to understand why in order to navigate the nuances of dressing appropriately rather than blindly following a code (which may not be appropriate for every situation).
Another framework, that I was surprised to learn about, was studying culture...