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Power distance and social business

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Power distance and social business

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It is becoming more widely accepted that culture is fundamental to the creation of a social business.  It’s the behavioural glue that binds everything together.  Suffice to say, culture is something that has received an awful lot of attention over the years, as the study of humanity has delved into what makes us who we are.

Geert Hofstede proposed various dimensions along which culture can be analyzed, one of which is the power dimension.  He created a Power Dimension Index, along which countries would be placed, from small to large.  The index contains various characteristics that typically pertain to cultures at either end of the scale, and I’ll outline some below.

Small power distance

Large power distance

Inequalities amongst people is bad

Inequalities are to be expected

People are treated as equals

Respect is bestowed based upon status

There is an interdependence between the powerful and less powerful

Less powerful people should be dependent upon the powerful

Initiative is expected from all

Initiative is expected only from the powerful

Learning depends on two way communication

Quality of learning depends on the teacher

Teachings are based upon impersonal truths

Teachings are based upon personal wisdom

Suffice to say, that is just a sample, and you can find out more about the Power Dimension Index here.

It’s probably not that far of a stretch however to recognize many of the characteristics from the small power distance column in the kind of social businesses we’re aspiring towards.  Indeed, Hofstede describes various workplace characteristics in small and large power distance societies.

Small power distance

Large power distance

Decentralization is popular

Centralization is popular

There is a narrow salary range between top and bottom

There is a wide salary range between top and bottom

There are few supervisory personnel

There are many supervisory personnel

Subordinates expect to be consulted

Subordinates expect to be told what to do

The ideal boss is a resourceful democrat

The ideal boss is a benevolent autocrat

Status symbols are frowned upon

Status symbols are normal and popular

Many of the traits present in the cultures of various countries have been established over a great many years.  It begs the question therefore, of how possible is it to construct a social business in a country that has a high power distance kind of culture?

I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences.

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