Monday, 10 August 2020

What does data tell us about the link between national culture and KM?

A few years ago I compared published cultural dimensions for various countries against a proxy measure of KM maturity. This blog post repeats that analysis with more recent, and more complete, data. 

One of the most famous (although controversial) studies of national culture was by Geert Hofstede. Hofstede looked at the culture of IBM employees of different nationalities, dividing that 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  these dimensions for a wide range of countries, and I used the dataset available here

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 as a proportion of the total linked-in population from that country. So for example we can assume that KM in the Netherlands, with 249 knowledge managers per million people on Linkedin, is more mature than it is in Brazil, with 25 knowledge managers per million Linkedin users. 

We can therefore use the linked-in proportion in the blog post quoted above as a rough ranking of KM maturity, and cross-plot it with the Hofstede dimensions for a number of countries.  The resulting plots are shown below.

Each point on the following plots is a single country. A linear trendline has been calculated, and the correlation coefficient R2 is quoted for each plot.

There is a reasonable negative relationship between Power Distance and KM maturity ranking, with an R2 of 22%. Those countries where there are more knowledge managers (and therefore KM can be deemed to be established) tend to have lower Power Distance. We might expect this. Lower Power Distance means greater empowerment, which is a great enabler of KM.

There is a reasonable positive relationship between individuality and KM maturity, with an R2 of 21% (above). The countries with strong individuality tend to be more at the top of the KM ranking list in terms of KM people on linked-in.

There is no evidence of any significant relationship between uncertainty avoidance and KM maturity, and the trendline has an R2 of 0.02% (above)  

There is even less relationship between masculinity and KM maturity (above), with an R2 of 0.017%

There is potentially a very weak positive relationship between Long Term Orientation and KM maturity (measured in the proportion of poeple on LinkedIn with KM roles). R2 is 2.6% (above).

There is potentially a very weak positive relationship between Indugence/Restraint and KM maturity (measured in the proportion of poeple on LinkedIn with KM roles). R2 is 5% (above).


There must be many caveats to this blog post, but with the crude data we have it seems as if the countries with the highest KM maturity, measured by the percentage of KM post-holders on Linkedin, are potentially those with lower Power Distance and high Individuality.  Any correlation with the other 4 Hofstede dimensions is much weaker. 

The reason for this correlation is not clear, and correlation does not imply causation. However you could argue that KM is both more necessary and more powerful in  country of empowered individual knowledge workers.

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. 

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