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Trompenaars' and Hampden-Turner's cultural factors


Explanations > Culture > Trompenaars' and Hampden-Turner's cultural factors

Universalism vs. Particularism | Analysing vs. Integrating | Individualism vs. Communitarianism | Inner-directed vs. Outer-directed | Time as sequence vs. Time as synchronisation | Achieved status vs. Ascribed status | Equality vs. Hierarchy | So what?


Fons Trompenaars is another Dutch culturalist who is into international culture. Teamed with Charles Hampden-Turner (a dilemma enthusiast), they talk these days not so much of country stereotypes as the need to understand individuals.

Universalism vs. Particularism

Universalism is about finding broad and general rules. When no rules fit, it finds the best rule.

Particularism is about finding exceptions. When no rules fit, it judges the case on its own merits, rather than trying to force-fit an existing rule.

Analyzing vs. Integrating

Analyzing decomposes to find the detail. It assumes that God is in the details and that decomposition is the way to success. It sees people who look at the big picture as being out of touch with reality.

Integrating brings things together to build the big picture. It assumes that if you have your head in the weeds you will miss the true understanding.

Individualism vs. Communitarianism

Individualism is about the rights of the individual. It seeks to let each person grow or fail on their own, and sees group-focus as denuding the individual of their inalienable rights.

Communitarianism is about the rights of the group or society. It seeks to put the family, group, company and country before the individual. It sees individualism as selfish and short-sighted.

Inner-directed vs. Outer-directed

Inner-directed is about thinking and personal judgement, ‘in our heads’. It assumes that thinking is the most powerful tool and that considered ideas and intuitive approaches are the best way.

Outer-directed is seeking data in the outer world. It assumes that we live in the 'real world' and that is where we should look for our information and decisions.

Time as sequence vs. Time as synchronisation

Time as sequence sees events as separate items in time, sequence one after another. It finds order in a serried array of actions that happen one after the other.

Time as synchronisation sees events in parallel, synchronised together. It finds order in coordination of multiple efforts.

Achieved status vs. Ascribed status

Achieved status is about gaining status through performance. It assumes individuals and organisations earn and lose their status every day, and that other approaches are recipes for failure.

Ascribed status is about gaining status through other means, such as seniority. It assumes status is acquired by right rather than daily performance, which may be as much luck as judgement. It finds order and security in knowing where status is and stays.

Equality vs. Hierarchy

Equality is about all people having equal status. It assumes we all have equal rights, irrespective of birth or other gift.

Hierarchy is about people being superior to others. It assumes that order happens when few are in charges and others obey through the scalar chain of command.

So what?

When working in other countries and with people from overseas, first research their national culture along these dimensions, then check first whether the people use these. By default and when talking with national groups, take account of these factors.

Note that Hofstede and Trompenaars are both Dutch purveyors of international cultural models, and are each very critical of the others' models.

See also

Hofstede's cultural factors

Culture Books

Buy Me

Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars, Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business, McGraw-Hill,  1997

  One of the classics of modern international cultural differences. Includes details of research and results of survey that is the basis of Trompenaars' cultural model. Update of the original by Trompenaars alone published in 1993.


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