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What Type Are You?

I have one last thing to get off my chest about one of the things I saw and heard at this weekend’s conference. I could let this go, but once again I believe that stupidity should be addressed and not ignored. And to be honest, it really is a draw as to whether this or that was the most outrageously ignorant thing I heard over the two days.

Day Two started off similar to Day One, this time by Christopher Liechty who proceeded to give us his copycat version of Darrel Rhea’s theme, egging designers on to create “strategies rather than artefacts”, to sucker-punch a company’s CFO for rightful position as a CEO’s right-hand man and to be always mindful of any company’s two needs: customers and profit. So I was kindof yawning and not paying a lot of attention when Christopher proudly unveiled his Flash App for a little … uh … stereotyping scheme he had run across which conveniently empowered one to make succinct, pseudo-scientific generalizations of the population of any given country at a glance.

Kindof like a Briggs-Meyers test, or horoscope, only applied to millions of people at a time! Cool huh? Yes, why, golly gee, all you have to do is click on a country—say, China—and you can see that they have a general “Masculinity” quotient of x, and a “Femininity” quotient of y and a bunch of other completely senseless characteristics, and from this you can tell so much!!

For instance, Christopher kindly pointed out to us that if you click on Iraq, you can see from their whatever-the-fuck-it-is, that they are less likely to be able to form a democracy! This is not a joke or a game.

I was sitting between Halim Choueiry (Lebanon/Qatar) and David Berman (Canada) and I can tell you that three pairs of eyes popped out of our heads and rolled down the aisles! “If this is an American’s perception of globalism, we are all in serious trouble!” said Halim. Indeed we are.

Actually, yes, I’ve made up my mind. This was the most idiotic thing said at the conference, because while Darrel Rhea only insulted everyone in the world minus designers, Christopher one-upped him by insulting everyone in the world. Good work there! Shucks, Christopher, think you could post a link to that nifty tool for us so we can all see what we might be predisposed to based on our nationality? Does it include measurements of head circumference? I sure hope so!

Other posts on this conference concern: My first impression, A vitriolic attack, Some helpful advice, and Rethinking the conference, as a concept.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Jul.16.2006 BY marian bantjes
Randy J. Hunt’s comment is:

There's an important distinction to clarify about this tool and others like it. Where Chris went wrong was implying that these things help you understand people. They'll never do that. What they can do is make more evident some trends. Trend analysis in this case does little more than compile a (subjective) data set about the past and merge it with imagined possible futures.

This can certainly help a person explore their own geopolitical thoughts. Good exercise...but you're definitely not going to understand people.

On Jul.17.2006 at 04:05 AM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

Sorry I missed that... or maybe not. Geez.

On Jul.17.2006 at 09:08 AM
Patrick St. John’s comment is:

That's fantastic, as are all your ICOGRADA posts.

And bravo with the head diameter jab. People need to use phrenology in their insults more often (that and Lamarckian evolution).

On Jul.17.2006 at 10:15 AM
Diane Witman’s comment is:

I always felt I was missing out on conferences until now.

Perhaps they are overrated?!?

On Jul.17.2006 at 11:00 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

"Perhaps they are overrated?!?"

They are way overrated if you have to pay your own way. ;o)

On Jul.17.2006 at 01:56 PM
LeMel’s comment is:

A bit of info...

Disclaimer: I did not attend the conference, and do not wish to defend or attack Mr. Liechty's statements as I did not experience them first-hand. Just wanted to offer some relevant info...a little googling will, well, you know.

The flash app was based on data gathered by Geert Hofstede's "Cultural Dimensions" research. Mr. Liechty's firm developed the flash application (I believe) for Berlitz (yes, *that* Berlitz). For what purpose I don't know. It appears he was simply demonstrating the work his firm had done on the visual presentation of the data, while elaborating on it's significance. The portrayal of Mr. Liechty as the author of the whole schema is, well, false, no?

Now, Mr. Hofstede's work is apparently not without its detractors, but the way to assess his work is to look into it, perhaps reading both those who find it valuable (the folks at Berlitz, evidently) and those who are critics.

Did Mr Liechty misrepresent Mr. Hofstede's ideas? Maybe his was speaking out of his depth? Or was he just showing a new way of presenting that data? Or just showing work for a client he thought was relevent to the global nature of the conference? I don't know. You really can't tell much from this post, except that the author is very, very mad.

A quick n dirty summary of a few online resources
Mr. Hofstede's own site (rather simple)
A big Hofstede resource, some critical views and other resources (with a kind of odd backstory - see second link)
And finally, the Flash app itself at MEYER & LIECHTY's site


On Jul.31.2006 at 02:32 AM
marian bantjes’s comment is:

LeMel, thank you for your research, and the links. Just for the record, I did say "his Flash App for a little ... uh ... stereotyping scheme he had run across," which doesn't indicate that he was the author of the material.

Mr. Leichty was presenting the data as a valuable tool for designers (ahem), and indicating his enthusiasm for the material, but showing us the graphical representation tool he had built for it.

And yeah, I was mad.

On Jul.31.2006 at 09:53 AM
Christopher Liechty’s comment is:

It might be helpful to your readers to understand a little more about the background of the Culture Map and Geert Hofstede's work to help them make their own judgments on the value of this information.

First of all, I agree with you that Hofstede's strokes are way too big. It is not possible to paint everyone in a country with one cultural brush and as LeMel says, Mr. Hofstede's work is not without detractors. There are those who are critical of his work because of the limited sample he uses (originally only IBM employees worldwide although it’s been replicated at least 60x) or that he over generalizes (traditional anthropologists refuse to generalize beyond a single village) and some who complain about the statistical model he uses. So with all of these problems, why would I want to create a flash version of his data and why would I include it in my presentation?

The reason Hofstede's work is interesting to me is that it provides a way to look at the fundamental differences between cultures. When anthropologists go out into the field to study, they use the same types of measures that Hofstede uses. They look to see how hierarchical the society is. Hofstede calls this power distance. They look at individualism as contrasted with collectivism, egalitarianism, competitiveness, prestige orientation, long-term orientation, etc. In my experience, many people when they look at other cultures focus on the outward signs and behaviors. They look at the food, clothing and cultural habits. When you receive a business card in Japan you should accept it with both hands, for example. These are helpful, but only to a point. It is much more helpful to understand the underlying values that people hold. What is their perspective on the world, what are the things that motivate them? This kind of information is much more helpful when you are trying to communicate across cultures. While Hofstede does over generalize, and the data may not be perfect, the ideas are very helpful in understanding cultural differences. They provide a starting point and something to keep in the back of your head as you go beyond these broad concepts and deal with people you encounter as people with individual characteristics. In many cases, understanding these principles can help you understand why someone from another culture is behaving a certain way or why a piece of design or advertising is performing well in one culture and not well in another.

Regarding my thoughts on Iraq. I made a comment about the contrast between individualism and collectivism and how that relates to democracy. As I was learning about the values that drive individualism and collectivism, I couldn’t help but think of how much our American view of democracy is wrapped around our focus on individual rights and autonomy—our individualist orientation. According to Hofstede’s research, the culture in the Arab Middle East is more collectivist. People in collectivist cultures tend to value the good of the group over their own needs and truth or honesty is sometimes interpreted differently. For example, helping your friend with the answers on a test is considered the right thing to do in collectivist cultures, when this may get you kicked out of school in an individualist society. As I watch how terribly things are going in Iraq, I think about the basic assumptions (beyond the excuses of WMDs, etc) on which the war was begun. Americans thought they could export our form of democracy complete with our package of values to Iraq. I think a little understanding of cultural values would be helpful here. Then there is the violence there. That is another issue altogether.

Maybe this idea was too complex to try to explain in the context of this speech. Maybe I didn’t communicate it clearly. If so, I’m sorry, but it’s my own interpretation, so if it’s screwy, I take full blame for that.

In case you want to judge for yourself. I have posted a video of that segment of my talk on YouTube.
" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bef6jMViW6M

" target="_blank"> Link to Culture Map

On Aug.04.2006 at 05:58 PM
Christopher Liechty’s comment is:

I see the link code got messed up. Here they are again.


Culture Map

On Aug.04.2006 at 06:07 PM