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Culture’s causes: the next challenge

Gert Jan Hofstede (Information Technology Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands)

Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal

ISSN: 1352-7606

Article publication date: 5 October 2015




The purpose of this paper is to argue that in cross-cultural and strategic management, we must pay attention to the processes creating and maintaining culture. How can everyday interactions give rise to national, “deep” cultures, recognizable across centuries, or organizational cultures, recognizable across decades?


This is a conceptual paper using the evidence provided by research about cultural patterns, and using sociological status-power theory to explain the causation of these patterns. Emergence, also called self-organization, is introduced as mechanism connecting individual-level causation with resulting system-level patterns. Cases are used to illustrate points.


Simulation gaming and computational social simulation are introduced. These methods allow “growing” a system, thus allowing to experiment with potential interventions and their unanticipated effects.

Research limitations/implications

This essay could have major implications for research, adding new methods to survey-based and case-based studies, and achieving a new synthesis. Strategic management today almost invariably involves cross-cultural elements. As a result, cross-cultural understanding is now strategically important.

Practical implications

The suggestions in this essay could lead to new collaborations in the study of culture and organizational processes. Examples include team formation, negotiation, mergers and acquisitions, trans-national collaboration, incentive systems and job interviews.

Social implications

The suggestions in this essay could contribute to our ability of proactively steering processes in organizations. In particular, they can provide a check to the notion that a control measure necessarily results in its intended effect.


The synthesis of biological, sociological and cross-cultural psychological viewpoints with design-oriented method, using games or social simulations as research instruments, is original in the field.



Discussions with Michael Bond, Geert Hofstede, Theodore Kemper, Michael Minkov and Pete Richerson have contributed to the ideas put forward in this paper. Katy and Tove Hofstede provided useful comments to an early version. The author wishes to thank NIAS, Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences and Humanities, and the Lorentz Centre Leiden, for a fellowship that allowed me to work on these ideas.


Hofstede, G.J. (2015), "Culture’s causes: the next challenge", Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 545-569.



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