SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE: HOW SOCIETY DETERMINES OUR BEHAVIOR, AND HOW TO BUCK THE TREND (Part II)

We began this series by speaking about the effects of culture on behavior and how to buck the trend if the behavior isn’t favorable.

We spoke about Geert Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory and began to use it as a framework for analysis. We explored the 6 Dimensions and looked at 4 of them with some depth while I promised we would settle on the Power Distance Index, at least a little more than we did the others.

So we will begin this second Instalment by looking at the next Dimension before we settle on the PDI.

Indulgence vs. Restraint Index (IND) is the dimension that measures happiness and whether or not simple joys are fulfilled. It is the extent to which people try to control their appetites, desires and impulses. Indulgence is defined as “a society that allows relatively free gratification of basic and natural human desires related to enjoying life and having fun,” while Restraint is defined as “a society that controls gratification of needs and regulates it by means of strict social norms.” 
Indulgence scores are highest in Latin America, parts of Africa, the Anglo world and Nordic Europe; restraint is mostly found in East Asia, Eastern Europe and the Muslim world.
Nigeria’s score here of 84 is really high. 
People in societies classified by a high level of Indulgence generally exhibit a high level of willingness to satisfy their impulses and appetites with regard to their enjoyment of life. They are usually more optimistic about life and put premium on leisure and pleasure and as a result are not restrained from spending money as they please.
This is obviously the basis on which Nigerians were once called the happiest people on earth, but there is a big downside to the score on this dimension. Any society or individual that places gratification ahead of production or leisure ahead of work will stagnate at best and will in all likelihood retrogress in almost unquantifiable proportions.
The fixation on pleasure is what is responsible for the expending of large sums on frivolities and the constant frittering away of the collective patrimony on private and temporary interests rather than capital projects that will benefit the generality of people it is meant for.
In societies and countries like Nigeria that score high on this dimension consumerism and not production is the economic culture that is pervasive. This is very unfortunate because nobody gets rich by spending more than he produces.
So if you are an indigene of or resident in such a society you need to be deliberate in your resolve not to give in to the mentality of indulgence if you want to do anything meaningful with your life.
Temperance (the ability to delay gratification) is a discipline that becomes all the more important for an achiever who lives in any culture high in this dimension.

As we don’t have all the time to do a critical assessment of all 6 dimensions we will select one and use it in an exhaustive analysis of societal behavior, see how it affects us, and how to stop the tide from keeping us at a disadvantage.

Let’s analyze the Power Distance Index-
This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal and expresses/evaluates the attitudes of the various cultures in different societies towards these inequalities.
A higher degree of the Power Distance Index indicates that hierarchy is clearly established, social classifications on the basis of all indices of power (political power, economic power, religious power etc) are set and these standards are enforced in society, without doubt or reason. 
A lower degree of the Index signifies that the majority questions authority and attempts to distribute power to attain equality.
Such societies are generally more rebellious to authority.
In this dimension, inequality and power are both perceived from and measured by the followers, or the lower level. 

West Africa has an average score of 77, Nigeria in particular has a score of 80, and the Arab world has a score of 80, which means that in all the aforementioned places people accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification. Hierarchy in an organization is seen as reflecting inherent qualities, centralization is popular, and subordinates expect to be told what to do. In this environment the ideal boss is a benevolent autocrat. 

While the Power Distance Index shows very high scores for Latin and Asian countries, African areas and the Arab world, the Anglo and Germanic countries, on the other hand, have a lower power distance (only 11 for Austria and 18 for Denmark).
The  United States has a 40 which is low compared to Guatemala (where the power distance is very high at 95) but still much higher than Israel where it is very low (13), so the United States is closer to the middle.
In Europe, power distance tends to be lower in northern countries and higher in southern and eastern parts: for example, 68 in Poland and 57 for Spain vs. 31 for Sweden and 35 for the United Kingdom.

America’s Power Distance Index is what causes it to want to unseat every “dictator” in the Middle East. By viewing the world through their lens they assume they are doing Iraq and all the other Islamic countries there a favor by 
 removing their leaders and instituting a form of government where accountability is given premium.
On the flip side, it becomes clearer why autocracy and tyranny seem to thrive in places like Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. The Power Distance Index is much higher in places like the aforementioned because the culture is such that a hierarchical structure is very clearly defined.

Note the following statements very carefully:-
This is why the level of respect shown to elders and parents by western youth is inappropriate and even completely unthinkable to others. 
This is why, as far as many others are concerned, western women have very little understanding of and respect for the place and role of their husbands as the heads of their families.
It happens all the time; a young lady addressing people thirty years older than she is, people probably older than her parents, by their first names.
A young man challenging the authority of those that have been placed above him and even getting to the point of fighting them.

Israel has a Power Distance Index of 13. That is very low.
Most analysts and commentators speak favorably of something very common with Israeli culture- the concept of “chutzpah.” 
Chutzpah is audacity, temerity and flagrant boldness. Overriding confidence that does or says things in such a way that is shocking to others. 
Reading a very good book like the “Start Up Nation”, a lot of emphasis is placed on the concept and on how integral it is to the progress Israel has made as a modern state.
Every instruction is questioned to the letter, not for the sake of merely being rebellious but with the understanding that instructions that have no explanations do not help in building systems and processes that can be replicated.
The downside of the authoritarian manner children are raised in Africa to obey without questioning is that morale and initiative are likely to be low, the good thing though is that a measure of discipline and respect for authority is inevitable. However it would be much more productive if people understood how to strike a balance between both.
We must learn not to view all cases of subordinates questioning instructions as attempts to undermine our authority as superiors; no doubt there will always be rebellious people but the demigod status many leaders (political, institutional/organizational, religious, traditional etc) adopt in Africa leads to more rather than less rebellion, and the reason is quite simple really- human nature is such that repression only drives dissent underground where it foments and gains more steam.
But if leaders can engage their subordinates more often in a climate that is devoid of fear and any acrimony it will create the potential for a greater buy-in and thus multiply the loyalty of the subordinates as it increases their commitment to the cause. Good leaders know this, and the great ones have developed consummate skill in applying it.

Take a look again at all the 6 Dimensions and see where you will need to buck the trend.

SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE: HOW SOCIETY DETERMINES OUR BEHAVIOR, AND HOW TO BUCK THE TREND

SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE: HOW SOCIETY DETERMINES OUR BEHAVIOR, AND HOW TO BUCK THE TREND

Different societies, just like different individuals, have different ways they view and relate with the world. It’s the concept of the colored sunglasses at play. 
We tend to view the world not the way it is but the way we are; and it is this view of the world that determines our aspirations, prejudices, and patterns of behavior. It is this view that determines how we interact with our world. 
When we think of the foreign policies of nations and how they interact with other nations it becomes apparent that just like it is a determinant of how individuals interact it also is of how nations interact.
How often have we seen situations like this- 
The United States invades Iraq to “liberate” the country and “enthrone democracy.” Afterwards the U.S President declares “Mission Accomplished”; but except that mission was to throw Iraq into a series of intractable crises that has caused a regression of monumental proportions it is anything but accomplished. 
The above is just one case out of a plethora of interventions that have been a demonstration of Western foreign policy in other climes and cultures. 
The U.S foreign policy in particular is premised on what it believes the rules of engagement with other nations should be. In most cases a determining factor in these rules of engagement is what they think is good for other countries.

This has led to failed attempts by Western countries to impose on others and several of those other countries to adopt what they think will be an improvement on their cultures and methods of administration, and this has produced Asian, African, and Middle Eastern kids who sag their jeans, eat McDonald’s lunches, and listen to the likes of Rick Ross and Jay Z.
This has led to attempts at implementing in Gulf States and Africa a Western brand of democracy, and these attempts are made without recourse to the unique circumstances and conditions of different societies. So we try to copy what was not designed for us and we fail.
We fail because we do not appreciate that the things we try to adopt were tailor made for those we try to copy them from.
We fail because we do not understand that people groups behave differently and this behavior leads us to create models that best suit our uniqueness. What may work for one may not necessarily work for another.

So why do people behave the way they do? Why are certain types of behavior prevalent in certain places and why are these behavior types as well as different perspectives unique to different cultures?

The purpose of this article is to first highlight the fact that culture is a major factor in determining how individuals and nations relate with themselves and others, both positively and negatively. And then we will veer into using this to understand how we can ensure we do not let our immediate environments hinder us from attaining what we have the potential to.

There is an interesting theory propounded  by a man named Geert Hofstede.
He is responsible for what is called the “Cultural Dimensions Theory”; it is a framework for cross-cultural communication and it very expertly describes the effects of a society’s culture on the values of its members, and how these values relate to behavior, using a structure derived from factor analysis. 
The theory proposes six dimensions along which cultural values could be analyzed: individualism-collectivism; uncertainty avoidance; power distance (strength of social hierarchy), masculinity-femininity (task orientation versus person-orientation), long-term orientation versus short-term orientation,and indulgence versus self-restraint.

Now, I will crave your indulgence and ask that you please follow me as this article is extremely important in understanding your behavior and how to change the trajectory if it is heading the wrong way. I will do my utmost to ensure it is not technical and that it is easy to understand.
Let’s run through each of these six dimensions-

Power Distance Index (PDI) deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal and thus it expresses the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities amongst us.
Power Distance Index is defined as “the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions, organizations, communities, societies, and countries expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.”
So the PDI is essentially the way different societies cope with inequality.  We will explain this in full detail and use it as a framework for understanding the subject matter of this discourse later.

Individualism vs. Collectivism Index (IDV) explores the “degree to which people in a society are integrated into groups.” 
The core objective of this dimension is the measurement of the degree of interdependence a society maintains over its members.
Individualistic societies have loose ties that often only cover nuclear families and relate an individual to his/her immediate family. This dimension evaluates whether people’s self-image is measured in terms of “I” or “we.” 
 Collectivism on the other hand describes a society in which tightly-integrated relationships tie extended families and even go beyond those to bind kinsmen into in-groups. Now these in-groups place a very high premium on loyalty, this loyalty overrides even societal rules and regulations and leads to a position where each member is required to take care of and support each other when a conflict arises with another group.
In collectivist societies offense leads to shame and loss of face, while employer/employee relationships tend to be viewed in moral terms just like in family settings. Then the hiring and promotion of individuals in the workplace tend to take into account the nature and composition of the employee’s in-group as well as his position in it. 
So it is not uncommon to see within collectivist societies that the families and communities a person is a part of are taken into account on an equal footing with his qualifications.
The danger here is that a clannish mentality or paradigm might be deployed where it should not and this would lead to nepotism and not meritocracy.

North America and Europe can be considered as individualistic with relatively high scores (an 80 for Canada and 91 points for the United States show they are highly individualistic societies). In contrast, Asia, Africa and Latin America have strongly collectivist values: Colombia scores only 13 points on the IDV scale and Indonesia 14. Nigeria with 30 points is more individualistic and is not as collectivist as Guatemala with 6 points, yet is far more collectivist than Western countries.

When we see this scale it becomes clear to us that some societies are more community oriented than others while others are more individualistic.

We understand for example how Nigerians have a tendency to shift their loyalties to their ethnic nationalities and how this trend must be deliberately fought against and resisted if significant progress will be made in any society, community, family or organization.
We also see how behavior patterns vary and how these can affect how people interface with each other. Think about marriage for instance.
A man who picks a bride from a Northern European or North American culture is not likely to have the same level of scrutiny and invasion of privacy as one who picks a bride from the Middle East, Africa, or Latin America. In the same vein the person who picks a wife from a more collectivist society is more likely to have access to a communal social support system than one who picks a wife from a more individualistic society. They are more likely to have more people empathizing with and supporting them than the couple from a more individualistic culture.

Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)  is defined as “a society’s tolerance for ambiguity.” It measures how people either embrace or avert something unexpected or unknown; it evaluates the extent to which societies either accept or repel from an occurrence or event that is not consistent with the status quo. The question here would be something like this- “since we cannot know the future in certain terms should we try to control the future or should we just go with the flow and sing ‘Que. sera sera, whatever will be will be..?'”
So this refers to the extent to which members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown circumstances/situations and have created beliefs and institutions in a bid to either avoid or handle them.
As one writer has put it “Societies that score a high degree in this index opt for stiff codes of behavior, guidelines, laws, and generally rely on absolute Truth, or the belief that one lone Truth dictates everything and people know what it is. A lower degree in this index shows more acceptance of differing thoughts/ideas. Society tends to impose fewer regulations, ambiguity is more accustomed to, and the environment is more free-flowing.”
Uncertainty avoidance scores are the highest in Latin American countries, Southern and Eastern Europe countries, Japan, and certain parts of Africa. Nigeria scores a 55 on the UAI scale, but the results are much lower for Anglo and Nordic countries.
So this explains why a country like Nigeria is not that open to divergent ideas that are not in consonance with the prevalent moral thought and traditions.
This shows us why Western European and North American countries are more pliant in their belief systems and are not as religious as Africans, Asians and Latin Americans.

Masculinity vs. Femininity Index (MAS) defines masculinity as “a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success,” while femininity refers to  “a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life.” People in the respective societies tend to display different values. 
A high score on this dimension is referred to as masculine while a low score is referred to as feminine.
A high score indicates that the society is driven by hard work, competition, achievements, and success- and success will be defined by who comes out tops or is best placed through school and up to the organizations he/she works in.  A low score indicates that what is most important in that society is quality of life and care for others. 
In feminine societies, both men and women are primed to share modest and caring views. But in more masculine societies, women are more emphatic and competitive, even though less emphatic than men. Invariably, in masculine societies people still recognize a gap between male and female values.
The fundamental difference in both societies is what motivates people between wanting to be the best at what you do (masculinity) and liking what you do (femininity)
Masculinity is extremely low in Nordic countries. Norway scores 8 and Sweden only 5. In contrast, Masculinity is very high in Japan (95), and in European countries like Hungary, Austria and Switzerland influenced by German culture. In the Anglo world, masculinity scores are relatively high with 66 for the United Kingdom for example. Latin countries present contrasting scores: for example Venezuela has a 73-point score whereas Chile’s is only 28. Africa is generally high, and Nigeria’s score on this scale is 60; this makes it a masculine society. And such a society is work oriented with a requirement for managers to be assertive, firm, and decisive because the emphasis is on competition and performance. 

Long-Term Orientation vs. Short-Term Orientation Index (LTO) evaluates the connection of the past with the present and assesses how past practices influence future actions or challenges. 
This dimension evaluates how every culture must maintain links with its past while dealing with the challenges of the present and future. A lower degree in this index (short-term) points at normative societies where traditions are honored and kept, mostly to the detriment of innovations. Societies with a high degree in this index (long-term) are pragmatic societies who instead of holding societal change with suspicion in the way the normative societies do view the ability to adapt and be pragmatic in problem-solving as a necessity. They plan in advance and mostly engage in a tactic called “reverse problem-solving” by anticipating future challenges and developing solutions to them even before they come up.
Traditions are usually only of as much value to them as how much they help the society evolve and develop contextually and circumstantially.
Research has shown that a poor country that is short-term oriented usually has little to no economic development, while long-term oriented countries continue to develop.
High long term orientation scores are typically found in East Asia, with China having 118, Hong Kong 96 and Japan 88. They are moderate in Eastern and Western Europe, and low in many parts of the Muslim world, Africa and Latin America. 

Nigeria has an abysmal score of 13 which shows it is normative with a high inclination to tradition and a small propensity to save and plan for the future.
Think about that, with a score of 13 it is now perfectly understandable why a whole country with over 180 million citizens does not have accurate data to plan with. With a rating like that on such a critical score it is now understandable when one sees the amount of mediocrity that has pervaded the different strata of leadership in Nigeria, and it is apparent that short-termism  is something to fight against if you are a Nigerian that wants to buck the trend.

We will continue this in another Instalment.

See you then.