Bangladesh society tends to suffer from cynicism and pessimism, suggests a model used by a Dutch professor. According to his 6-D model, it is also intolerant of unorthodox behaviour and ideas. Individualism is also fund to be of little value in the country.
Based on national characteristics, we can reset our priorities, examining whether we will measure development only some numbers or by social equity and the people’s freedom.
Let me try to explain one of the most influential and most comprehensive studies on national culture which was done by professor Geert Hofstede. He and his research team came up with a cultural model widely know as the 6-D model of culture. This model is used worldwide in both academic and professional management settings today.
There are six dimensions of national culture as Hofstede observed. These are: Power Distance; Individualism; Masculinity; Uncertainty Avoidance; Long Term Orientation; and Indulgence.
If we explore the Bangladesh culture through the lens of the 6-D Model, we can get a good overview of the deep drivers of its culture relative to some of the other cultures. Hofstede used an indexation for each of the dimensions of the 6-D model and assigned scores to each country as per the research findings.
I have summarised four countries to have relative comparison of the drivers of the culture of Bangladesh in the following graph.
Figure 1:6-D comparison [source: Hofstede (2010)]
Power Distance is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. This is the attitude towards inequality. Bangladesh scores high on this dimension -score of 80. What this tells us is that- people accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place, and which needs no further justification. In other words -People in higher position will enjoy higher authority without further question. There are large gaps in compensation, authority and respect. In contrast, very low score for the USA and Australia indicative of the society where people believe inequality should be minimised.
This dimension refers to the social bond in a society. Hofstede defined two types of society as- Individualist society and Collectivist society.
In the individualist society self-image is defined in terms of “I”. People are only worried about themselves and very close relatives. People are self-centred. They lack connection among those who are not part of a close family. This is a loosely knitted social structure.
In the collectivist society group belongings are strong, people live in groups and take care of each other based on loyalty. “We” is the predominant word over “I”. People take care of each other in this society.
Bangladesh, with a score of 20 is considered a collectivist society. In contrast, Australia and the USA are individualist society.
This dimension reflects the competitiveness within a society. A high score (masculine) on this dimension indicates that the society will be driven by competition, achievement and success, with success being defined by the winner/best in field - a value system that starts in school and continues throughout organisational life. This is a value system where winners take it all. People will do whatever it takes to shine- often at the expense of others.
The opposite - Feminine society on the other hand means that the dominant values in society are caring for others and quality of life. A feminine society is one where quality of life is the sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not admirable. The fundamental issue here is what motivates people, wanting to be the best (masculine) or liking what you do (feminine).
Bangladesh scores 55 on this dimension and can be considered a masculine society. Australia and the USA are a little more masculine society than Bangladesh. Japan scored 95 in this dimension whereas Sweden scored only five.
This dimension tells us how a society deals with unknown facts. High scoring countries are rigid in their existing way of life, are intolerant of unorthodox behaviour and ideas and they are unwilling to take changes as they feel threatened by new ideas or ambiguous fact.But Hofstede suggests this does not mean people in High uncertainty avoidance culture does not involve in high risk activities.
Bangladesh scores 60 on this dimension and thus has a high score. Compared to Bangladesh, the USA and India has a more tolerant society whereas Australia is in the middle of this scale. Recently, in Australia there was a public vote for changes in same sex marriage. The battle was very hardly fought, and the winning was defined by 51:49 ratio - which validates Hofstede’s work.
Long Term Orientation
This dimension describes how every society maintain some links with its own past while dealing with the challenges of the present and future, and societies prioritise these two existential goals differently. The society that scores low in this scale is termed as -Normative societies. Normative societies prefer to maintain time-honoured traditions and norms while viewing societal change with suspicion.
The other side with higher scores are the pragmatic society where the approach they encourage thrift and efforts in modern education to prepare for the future.
Bangladesh has an intermediate score at 47, this does not indicate a strong preference in pragmatic society.
Countries with a higher score, indulgent society, encourage people’s own drive and emotions such as enjoying life and having fun. Bangladesh has a very low Indulgence score of 20 which puts it a Restrained country category. Restrained society tends to suffer from cynicism and pessimism. In contrast, countries like USA or Australia is a highly indulgent society where people are enjoying life and having fun and in general positive towards life.
Hofstede’s index of global culture can help us to reset our future focus- where we want to go from here. Do we want to maintain a nation that will not try to reduce disparity, or we want to change to a society that will strive for equality in all aspects of life? Do we want to encourage initiative and reward people based on their innovativeness, success and skills, or do we want to govern ourselves based on tradition and past? Do we want to see our success as a nation by looking at some traditional economic numbers or we want to be a proud nation measured who will measure its development by people’s freedom?
* Syed Uddin is CIMA (UK), CPA (Australia) and MBA (Australia)