what is the individualism distance index?
The Individualism Distance Index (IDV) provides a measure of the degree to which people think of themselves first as individuals and then as part of a group. The US and UK are countries with high individualism in which focus on self and immediate family causes IDV to be their dominant Cultural Dimension. Conversely, Asia and the Arab World have very low IDV dimensions, because they place high importance on the group. In these high Collectivism cultures, group members willingly sacrifice their individual goals for the good of the group.
the difference between high and low individualism
Heavy focus on the self and prioritizes self interest within society. Individuals with high individualism have a very strong sense of personal identity.
Low individualist societies place more emphasis on the collective. Individuals in a low individualist society work and think as part of and in the interest of the wider group.
why the individualism distance index is used
We use Cultural Dimensions as part of our Intercultural Suitability Review that identifies potential problem areas prior to the investment of time and money for translation. IDV mismatch was identified in a recent project for a multinational South Korean (IDV = 15) manufacturing company for use by their UK (IDV = 90) based sales team. We suggested the display of each individual’s scores in the UK Learning module in order to motivate each trainee to do his or her best. While this form of competition is common and effective in high IDV cultures, it would typically be avoided in locations like South Korea where the culture is to judge the group as a whole. Our suggestion was accepted and feedback on the program has been positive.
managing cultural differences
Potential culture related training program issues can be identified by first determining whether there are Cultural Dimension mismatches between the source and target cultures. Then:
- If there is a mismatch, first ensure that the process being taught is compatible with the target culture.
- Then check to make sure that the courseware and instruction are within the framework of how members of the target culture learn.
When working with these cultures, a very different approach should also be used.
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