Thursday 11 June 2015

The link between KM and national culture

There are few if any comparative studies of the link between the adoption of KM and national culture.  So I did a little experiment. The results are interesting.

One of the most famous studies of national culture was by Geert Hofstede. Hofstede looked that the national culture of IBM employees, and divided national culture into 6 dimensions;

  • Power distance -  the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.
  • Individualism - The degree to which individuals are integrated into groups
  • Uncertainty avoidance - a society's tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity
  • Masculinity - The distribution of emotional roles between the genders
  • Long-term orientation - societies' time horizon.
  • Indulgence versus restraint - The extent to which members of a society try to control their desires and impulses.
There are published data for the first 4 of these indices for a wide range of countries. 

There is no comparative study of the KM maturity of countries, but this blog post has a proxy measure, by looking at the number of knowledge managers listed on linked-in compared to the number of knowledge managers listed on Linkedin from a country, as a percentage of the total linked-in population from that country. So for example we can assume that KM in Switzerland,with 500 knowledge managers per million people on Linkedin, is more mature than it is in Brazil, with 40 knowledge managers per million Linkedin users. 

We can therefore use the listing in the blog post as a rough ranking of KM maturity and cross-plot it with the Hofstede dimensions.  The resulting plots are shown above and below, with the horizontal axes, in each case, being the ranking from 1 to 40 (1 being Switzerland, 40 being Brazil). 
There is a reasonable positive relationship between Power Distance and KM maturity ranking (top left). Those companies with higher KM ranking tend to have lower Power Distance. We might expect this. Lower Power Distance means greater empowerment, which is a great enabler of KM.

If there is any relationship between uncertainty avoidance and KM maturity, it is much weaker (top right) and there is potentially more scatter. Maybe there is a slight tendency for a lower Uncertainty Avoidance for the more mature KM countries, but its only slight.

There is no relationship between masculinity and KM maturity (bottom left).

There is a reasonable negative relationship between individuality and KM maturity ranking (bottom right). The countries with strong individuality are mostly at the top of the KM ranking list.


There must be many caveats to this blog post, but in crude terms it seems as if the countries with the highest KM maturity, measured by the percentage of KM post-holders on Linkedin, are linked with low Power Distance and high Individuality. 

If this is true, then we could use the Hofstede dimensions of Power Distance and Individuality as a rough indicator of the relative difficulty of establishing KM. 

1 comment:

Martin Chen said...

This is quite an interesting angle to look at!
In general, most of western developped countries are with high individualism and low power distance according to Hofestede(Japan is eastern developed country with high power distance), their KM maturity is surely more;
Like less developed countries like south american countries, East european, eastern countries as Thailand and China etc, comparatively these countries are with lower individualism and higher power distance. Their KM maturity is comparatively less since their economy is more based on intense labor, more of manufacture, less know-how industry; more in basic needs level, not yet focusing too much on "self-actualization" level according to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The awareness of KM and the capability of doing KM is low, maybe we can say most of them cannot afford KM?
In short, in my opinion, KM maturity depends on their economy development. More developed countries are with more KM maturity and mostly they are with high individulism and lower power distance(execpt Japan I can think of, else countries more?)

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