Let’s start with a definition of Long Term Orientation, so we’re all on the same page:
“A national culture attribute that emphasizes the future, thrift and persistence.“
It’s likely that you can find more definitions, but this one makes sense and is compact. The way this definition is phrased is from a relatively high score on this dimension.
Why Is Long-Term Orientation So Difficult to Understand?
During cultural awareness training, I hardly ever go over this dimension.
I usually stick to the first four main dimensions of culture (power distance, individualism, masculinity, and uncertainty avoidance). Why? Because, in my experience, long-term orientation does not add much practical information or applicability when it comes to understanding different cultures.
Only in very special circumstances, do I address this dimension, or where it really makes sense (I once did a workshop in Tokyo, with a large group of Japanese and a large group of Westerners; there it made sense!).
Here’s a typical long-term orientation riddle example, that usually leads to a lot of discussion and confusion:
“If a tree falls in the Forrest, and there is no one there, nor is it being recorded or broadcast in any form or shape. Does it make a noise?”
- A typical low long-term orientation scoring answer could be: “Yes, of course, it makes a noise. It will always make a noise…”
- A typical high-scoring long-term orientation answer could be: “I don’t know…”
The Origins Of Long-Term Orientation
When prof. Geert Hofstede first constructed his first four dimensions of cultural differences, he recognized that he too was influenced by his own Dutch culture, which he could not take out of the “cultural equation“.
Indeed the Canadian Michael Bond (working in Hong Kong at the time) re-ran Hofstede’s questionnaires (this was in the mid-70s) and found significant differences in certain answers to questions by people with an Asian background (=culture), leading to the addition of this 5th dimension Long Term Orientation or LTO.
Characteristics of LTO
A number of characteristics of relative high scoring countries are:
- persistence (perseverance)
- ordering relationships by status
- the possibility of having many truths (depending on time and context)
- having a sense of shame
On the other side of the dimension (low score) these characteristics:
- personal steadiness and stability
- short-term orientation; short feedback cycles
- respect for tradition
- reciprocation of greetings, favors, and gifts
- Absolute truths (e.g. law of gravity)
Scores of LTO
Below is a list of countries and their respective scores on this dimension. One reason for me to leave this dimension out when giving a cultural awareness training is not all scores are known in all countries.
- Australia 31
- Bangladesh – 40
- Brazil – 65
- Canada – 23
- China – 118
- Germany FR – 31
- Great Britain – 25
- Hong Kong – 96
- India – 61
- Japan – 80
- Netherlands – 44
- New Zealand – 30
- Nigeria – 16
- Pakistan – 00
- Philippines – 19
- Poland – 32
- Singapore – 48
- South Korea – 75
- Sweden – 33
- Taiwan – 87
- Thailand – 56
- USA – 29
- Zimbabwe – 25
The “geographical border” of relatively high and low scores on this dimension runs right between India (61) and Pakistan (00); then upward around India, China/Russia.
A strong correlation with this is the dominating religions. Whereby Pakistan is predominantly Muslim (One God, One Book) and India is predominantly Hindu (multiple Gods, not clearly one book). Following the “lines of Religion” is also a good indicator of low and high scores on this dimension.
If you’re puzzled by reading all this, you’re probably not alone.
If you’re not raised within an Asian context all of the above doesn’t mean much to you (as it doesn’t to me). And that’s OK.
The first four, or four main dimensions of culture are plenty enough to explain most (business) phenomena when it comes to cultural differences and diversity.
An article about examples of long-term orientation can be found here.
Here’s a specific article about doing business in Asia.
Examples of the dimension hierarchy or power distance can be found here.
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