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uncertainty avoidance index

what is the uncertainty avoidance index?

As we have mentioned in our previous posts, an ASTD survey indicated that failure to consider intercultural differences is one of the reasons that 72% of multinational companies were not satisfied with their global training initiatives. We have been studying and discussing the use of Professor Geert Hofstede’s research on Cultural Dimensions as a means of identifying mismatches and opportunities in training delivery. Previously we’ve covered some of Professor Hofstede’s other cultural dimensions. This post discusses the Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI).

The UAI offers a means by which to measure a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. It indicates the extent to which a culture’s members feel comfortable in unstructured situations. Uncertainty avoiding cultures try to minimize the possibility of these situations by imposing strict laws and rules. Uncertainty accepting cultures on the other hand are more tolerant of opinions that differ from what they are used to; they tend to have fewer rules and allow for the coexistence of many beliefs.

As a part of our Intercultural Suitability Review, we use the Cultural Dimensions concept to identify potential problem areas prior to any investment of resources for translation. An example of how this method is used to identify possible UAI conflicts is in the case of a Japanese conglomerate expanding its manufacturing operations to Singapore. Japan has one of the highest UAI ratings at 92 and in contrast, Singapore has the lowest at 8. We recommended the Japanese company introduce a system of reward and recognition. Since cultures that rank low on UAI (higher in uncertainty tolerance) tend to embrace innovation and risk-taking, recognizing the accomplishments of individuals has led to higher productivity.

reconciling cultural differences

Examples of how Uncertainty Avoidance can be successfully addressed in a cross-cultural environment include:

  • Identifying the cultural differences as they apply to the operations of the corporate entity vs. the culture that is being entered into.
  • Establish an environment that embraces the positive characteristics and attributes of the target culture. This may include reinforcing the individuality that is inherent in the low-UAI culture.

Consider training the management and staff of the parent culture, in order to develop sensitivity toward those aspects of Uncertainty Avoidance that may cause conflict.

When working with other cultures, a different approach should also be used.

CQ fluency are experts in cultural sensitivity and adaptability. Interested in learning how you can enhance your connections across different cultures? Reach out to us today to start broadening your cultural horizons and achieve global success.