Geert Hofstede

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Gerard Hendrik Hofstede
Born (1928-10-02) 2 October 1928 (age 93)
Nationality Netherlands Netherlands
Fields Social psychology, Anthropology

Gerard Hendrik (Geert) Hofstede (born 2 October 1928 in Haarlem) is a Dutch social psychologist, former IBM employee, and Professor Emeritus of Organizational Anthropology and International Management at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, well known for his pioneering research on cross-cultural groups and organizations.

His most notable work has been in developing cultural dimensions theory. Here he describes national cultures as describable along five dimensions: Power Distance, Individualism, Uncertainty avoidance, Masculinity, and Long Term Orientation. He is known for his books Culture's Consequences and Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, co-authored with his son Gert Jan Hofstede.[1][2]


Born to Gerrit and Evertine G. (Veenhoven) Hofstede, Geert Hofstede attended schools in The Hague and Apeldoorn, and received his high school diploma (Gymnasium Beta) in 1945.[3] In 1953, Hofstede graduated from Delft Technical University with an M.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering. After working in the industry for ten years, Hofstede entered part-time doctoral study at Groningen University in The Netherlands, and received his PhD in social psychology cum laude in 1967.[3] His thesis was titled “The Game of Budget Control.”

Upon his graduation from Delft in 1953, Hofstede joined the Dutch military, working as a technical officer in the Dutch army for two years. After leaving the military he worked in industry from 1955 to 1965, starting as a factory hand in Amsterdam.[3] In 1965 he started his graduate study in Groningen and joined IBM International, working as a management trainer and manager of personnel research. He founded and managed the Personnel Research Department. During a two-year sabbatical from IBM from 1971 to 1973 he was a visiting lecturer at IMEDE (now the International Institute for Management Development). In 1980, Hofstede co-founded and became the first Director for the IRIC, the Institute for Research on Intercultural Cooperation, located at Tilburg University since 1998.

Since his retirement in 1993, Hofstede has visited numerous universities worldwide to educate students on his theoretical approaches and to continue his research in this field. He currently is Professor Emeritus of Organizational Anthropology and International Management at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and serves as an extramural fellow of the Center of Economic Research at Tilburg University in Tilburg, Netherlands.[4]

Hofstede received many honorary awards,[5] and in 2011 was made a Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion (Orde van de Nederlandse Leeuw). He holds honorary doctorates from seven universities in Europe,[3] Nyenrode Business University, New Bulgarian University,[6] Athens University of Economics and Business, University of Gothenburg, University of Liège, ISM University of Management and Economics, University of Pécs in 2009, and University of Tartu in 2012. He also received honorary professorships at The University of Hong Kong 1992–2000; the Beijing University of International Business and Economics (UIBE), Beijing, China; and the Renmin University of China, Beijing, China.

In 1955, Hofstede married Maaike A. van den Hoek. Together, they have four sons: Gert-Jan Hofstede, who is a population biologist and social scientist in information management; Rokus Hofstede, who works as a translator; Bart Hofstede, who is a Cultural Counselor of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Berlin, and Gideon Hofstede, who works as an international marketeer. He also has ten grandchildren. Gert-Jan has worked extensively with his father and co-authored several works in the realm of culture study.[3][4]

In 2014, a movie was released about Geert Hofstede's life and work titled An Engineer's Odyssey.


Hofstede is a researcher in the fields of organizational studies and more concretely organizational culture, also cultural economics and management.[3] He is a well-known pioneer in his research of cross-cultural groups and organizations and played a major role in developing a systematic framework for assessing and differentiating national cultures and organizational cultures. His studies demonstrated that there are national and regional cultural groups that influence the behavior of societies and organizations.

Early inspiration

When World War II ended, Geert Hofstede was seventeen and had always lived in the Netherlands under rather difficult circumstances, so he decided that it was time for him to explore the world. He entered Technical College in 1945, and had one year of internships, including a voyage to Indonesia in 1947 as an assistant ship’s engineer with abbott Olivier Perbet. It was his first time out of his country, immersed in a foreign culture, and was an early influence in his career to study cross-cultures. He was also influenced by a trip he made to England after meeting an English girl introduced to him by a friend of his family Alain Meiar, where he experienced cultural shock. He was struck by the cultural differences he noticed between England and Holland, two very close European countries. These early experiences helped translate into a lifelong career in cross-cultural research.[7]

A second important period in Geert’s life was working in industry between 1955 and 1965, when he held professional and managerial jobs in three different Dutch industrial companies. By experiencing management, he had a chance to see the organization from the bottom up working as a mechanic. This training and background as an engineer shaped his research and his approach to social situations. He claims that his description of social situations appeals to a number of people because, “I still have the mind of an engineer to the extent that I try to be specific...and be clear about what I am saying.” This was important in his development of quantifying cultures on different dimensions.[7]

IBM research

At IBM International, Hofstede started working as a management trainer and manager of personnel research, and founded and managed the Personnel Research Department. This was his transition from the field of engineering and into psychology. In this role, he played an active role in the introduction and application of employee opinion surveys in over 70 national subsidiaries of IBM around the world. He traveled across Europe and the Middle East to interview people and conduct surveys regarding people’s behavior in large organizations and how they collaborated. He collected large amounts of data, but due to the pressures of his daily job, was unable to conduct a significant amount of research. When he took a two-year sabbatical from IBM in 1971, he delved deeper into the data he had collected from his job, and discovered that there were significant differences between cultures in other organizations, but got the same ranking of answers by country.[7] At the time, the results of the IBM’s surveys, with over 100,000 questionnaires, were one of the largest cross-national databases that existed.

He became a visiting lecturer at IMEDE (now the International Institute for Management Development) in Lausanne, Switzerland.[3] At IMEDE, he administered a selection of IBM questionnaire items to his course participants, who were international managers from over 30 countries and from a variety of different private and public organizations unrelated to IBM. Hofstede found that the same results that he discovered in the IBM surveys had reproduced themselves significantly in the sample of his students. This was the first hard piece of evidence that the differences among countries was not specific to IBM, but, instead, were due to a generalized set of shared socialization skills that were specific to people having grown up in the same country, and not necessarily, the same organization.

Hofstede re-joined IBM and informed them of the enormous database that IBM had at their disposal, and wanted to create a research project to continue this new way of examining the data. After a lack of opportunity to conduct his research at IBM, he found two part-time jobs, including one at the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Brussels as a Professor of Management, while simultaneously teaching part-time at INSEAD business school in Fontainebleau, France. Between 1973 and 1979, he worked on the data, and analyzed it in a variety of ways. He used existing literature in psychology, sociology, political science, and anthropology to relate his findings in a larger scope of study. In 1980, he published his book Culture’s Consequences, where the results of his analysis were presented.[8]

Research on national cultures and critiques

Research on national cultures

Hofstede's analysis defined four initial dimensions of national culture that were positioned against analysis of 40 initial countries. As a trained psychologist, he began his analysis of the survey data he had collected at IBM at the individual respondent level. At the end of two years, he realized he needed an “ecological” analysis, in which respondents were contextualized by their countries. By aggregating individuals as societal units, he could examine national cultures rather than individual personalities.

Hofstede's model explaining national cultural differences and their consequences, when introduced in 1980, came at a time when cultural differences between societies had become increasingly relevant for both economic and political reasons. The analysis of his survey data and his claims led many management practitioners to embrace the model, especially after the publication of his 1991 book, Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind.

In 1980, Geert co-founded and became the first Director for the IRIC, the Institute for Research on Intercultural Cooperation, located at Tilburg University since 1998. Much of Geert’s research on the basic dimensions of nations came through the IRIC. In 2001, Geert published an entirely re-written second edition of Culture’s Consequences. In 2010, a third edition of Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind was published with Gert Jan Hofstede and Michael Minkov as co-authors. In this book, there were two new dimensions that were added, and the number of countries covered was between 76 and 93. This book also introduced the topic of organizational cultures as a separate and different phenomenon.


Despite the popularity of Hofstede's model, some critics have argued that his conceptualization of culture and its impact on people's behavior might be incorrect. The most cited criticism of his work is by Professor Brendan McSweeney (Royal Holloway, University of London and Stockholm University), who argues that Hofstede's claims about the role of national culture indicates too much determinism that might be linked to fundamental flaws in his methodology.[9] Hofstede replied to this critique,[10] arguing that the second edition of his book had responded to many of McSweeney's concerns and that he viewed the resistance to his ideas as a sign that he was shifting the prevalent paradigm in cross-cultural studies.[10] McSweeney has rejected Hofstede's reply, arguing that the same profound methodological flaws that characterize the original analysis of the IBM data remain in the second edition.[11]

Another key critique, which largely focuses on level of analysis, is by Professor Barry Gerhart (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Professor Meiyu Fang (National Central University, Taiwan), who point out that among other problems with Hofstede's research (and the way it is widely interpreted) is that his results actually only show that around 2 to 4 percent of variance in individual values is explained by national differences – in other words 96 percent, and perhaps more, is not explained. And that there is nothing in Hofstede's work that pertains to individual-level behaviours or actions.[12]

In a 2008 article in the Academy of Management’s journal, The Academy of Management Review, Galit Ailon deconstructs Culture’s Consequences by mirroring it against its own assumptions and logic.[13] Ailon finds several inconsistencies at the level of both theory and methodology, and cautions against an uncritical reading of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions.

Other academics point to a fundamental flaw in the common application of Hofstede’s culture dimensions. According to Dr Paul Brewer and Associate Professor Sunil Venaik (the University of Queensland, Australia), Hofstede’s culture dimensions and scores are national or “ecological” in nature and do not apply to people living in the sampled countries.[14][15] In Hofstede’s analysis, the correlations of his culture variables are significant when aggregated to the national level but not significant at the individual level. This means that no cultural implications can be drawn about the people living in countries using Hofstede’s national culture dimension scores; to do so is to commit an “ecological fallacy”. To avoid this fallacy and resulting confusion Brewer and Venaik recommend avoiding the use of the Hofstede dimension scores in management research and training.[16]

In a re-analysis of the cross-national value data, based on Hofstede, Shalom Schwartz and Ronald Inglehart and his own factor analysis of recent World Values Survey data, Arno Tausch Corvinus University Budapest found however a large-scale confirmation of Hofstede's value scales with other value survey research results. Especially the dimensions Power Distance, Individualism vs. Collectivism, Long-Term Orientation and Indulgence versus Restraint are closely correlated with value dimensions reported by Inglehart, Schwartz and the current data from the World Values Survey.[17]

Reception of his work

Hofstede's books have appeared in 23 languages. World Wide Web’s citation indexes between 1981 and 2011 listed more than 9,000 articles in peer-reviewed journals citing one or more of Geert’s publications. This makes him the currently most cited European social scientist.[citation needed]

He has received much recognition for his work in cross-cultural analysis. In 2004, the Hanze University Groningen, the Netherlands established the Geert Hofstede Lecture, a bi-annual conference in the area of intercultural communication. In 2006, Maastricht University, the Netherlands inaugurated a Geert Hofstede Chair in cultural diversity.[18]

In 2008, six European universities united to create the Master in International Communication (MIC), and named themselves the Geert Hofstede Consortium.[19]

In 2009, Reputation Institute, which "recognizes individuals who have greatly contributed to the field of reputation through both scholarship and practice",[20] nominated Hofstede as the Best Scholar of the year.

In October 2010, Maastricht University School of Business and Economics launched the Geert Hofstede Fund, aiming at encouraging activities around multicultural interactions and research about the impact of cultural differences.[21]


Hofstede authored and co-authored numerous publications in the field of social psychology.[22]

  • Hofstede, Geert (July 1978). "The Poverty of Management Control Philosophy". The Academy of Management Review. Academy of Management. 3 (3): 450–461. doi:10.2307/257536. JSTOR 257536.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hofstede, Geert (July 1967). "The Game of Budget Control: How to Live with Budgetary Standards and Yet be Motivated by Them". OR. Operational Research Society. 20 (3): 388–390. JSTOR 3008751.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hofstede, Geert (December 1983). "Culture's Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values". Administrative Science Quarterly. Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University. 28 (4): 625–629. JSTOR 2393017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hofstede, Geert (March 1993). "Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind". Administrative Science Quarterly. Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University. 38 (1): 132–134. JSTOR 2393257.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hofstede, Geert (March 2002). "Dimensions Do Not Exist: A reply to Brendan McSweeney" (PDF). Human Relations. Sage Publications. 55 (11).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hofstede, Geert (2010). "The GLOBE debate: Back to relevance". Journal of International Business Studies. Sage Publications. 41 (8): 1339–46. doi:10.1057/jibs.2010.31. SSRN 1697436.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. Hofstede, Geert (2001). Culture's Consequences: comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-0-8039-7323-7. OCLC 45093960.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Hofstede, Geert; Hofstede, Gert Jan (2005). Cultures and organizations: software of the mind (Revised and expanded 2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-143959-6. OCLC 57069196.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 "Geert". Geert Hofstede. Retrieved 29 March 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Personal Communication with P.Singh<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Honorary awards:
  6. NBU Doctors Honoris Causa
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Culture Does Not Exist—An Interview with Professor Geert Hofstede". Centre for Intercultural Learning. Retrieved 11 April 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "An Interview with Geert Hofstede". 18. Academy of Management Executive. February 2004: 75–79. JSTOR 4166037. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. McSweeney, B. (2002a) Hofstede's Identification of National Cultural Differences – A Triumph of Faith a Failure of Analysis, Human Relations, 55.1, 89–118.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Hofstede, G. (2002) Dimensions Do Not Exist: A Reply to Brendan McSweeney, Human Relations, 55, November, pp. 1355-1361
  11. McSweeney, B. (2002b) The Essentials of Scholarship: A Reply to Hofstede, Human Relations, 55.11, 1363–1372
  12. Gerhart, B. and Fang, M. (2005) National Culture and Human Resource Management: Assumptions and Evidence, International Journal of Human Resource Management, 16.6, 971–986
  13. Ailon, G. (2008). Mirror, mirror on the wall: Culture's Consequences in a value test of its own design. The Academy of Management Review, 33(4):885–904
  14. Brewer, P., & Venaik, S. (2012). On the misuse of national culture dimensions. International Marketing Review, 29(6), 673-683.
  15. Venaik, S., & Brewer, P. (2013). Critical issues in the Hofstede and GLOBE national culture models. International Marketing Review, 30(5), 469-482.
  16. Brewer, P. & Venaik, S. 2014. The ecological fallacy in national culture research. Organization Studies, 35(7), 1063-1086.
  17. Tausch, Arno, Hofstede, Inglehart and Beyond. New Directions in Empirical Global Value Research (May 14, 2015). doi:10.2139/ssrn.2606243
  18. Geert Hofstede Chair in cultural diversity
  19. Geert Hofstede Consortium
  20. "RI Hall of Fame". Reputation Institute. Retrieved 30 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Geert Hofstede Fund
  22. Geert Hofstede Google Scholar Profile.

External links