Head of Innovation
An in-depth analysis of the culture assessment, along with its components and type descriptions
Understanding Culture Types gives you a new and powerful lens to see the world. From a combination of one’s environment and natural proclivities, everyone has fundamental beliefs, world views, values, instincts, and communication patterns that are unique to them. These traits are shared socially with others in families, communities, organizations, and nations.
These vital characteristics become the basis of culture. Culture is a series of standards, norms, and other behavioral expectations that come from the beliefs of those in a group. When enough people of the same or similar Culture Types work and live together you are able to create a local or an organizational culture. However, despite the fact that you observe culture in group settings, every person has an individual cultural affinity that is unique to them. In the words Geert Hofstede, a world renown Dutch anthropologist, “Culture is the software of the mind”.
Culture is the crucial part of our personality that we weren’t born with. We digested or "enculturated" it into our psyche. Thus our family environment, native language, socio-economic situation, religious upbringing, and multiple other factors all blend together in influencing your Culture Type. One may even say that they rejected the values they were raised with, but even that rejection was a reaction to their environment. Culture is by far the most overlooked component of our personalities. Culture is like the water that the fish swims in – it doesn’t even realize it is there. Most people can easily explain temperament by saying ‘I’m shy!’, ‘He’s assertive!, or ‘He’s the life of the party!’. However, until now most people have inadequate tools to describe culture. There’s no Myers-Briggs or Enneagram equivalent to Culture Types; so we created our own!
When researching different cultures we decided to review the work of several different prominent anthropologists. Academics and industrial psychologists have come up with dozens of different cultural dimensions as well. We’ve accounted for, and analyzed, over 80 of them. Many are unique to only a few cultures from exotic locations while most are common across different continents, religions, and ethnic groups. We quickly noticed that certain cultural traits are correlated with other ones. We were able to make broad groupings to help create different cultural archetypes based on those traits. Keep in mind that Cultural Types are heuristics to explain cultures more efficiently and do not explain the entirety of each culture individually or collectively. In our system, the Culture types are divided into four Quadrants with 3 different Focuses in each Quadrant. There are 12 Culture types in total. Furthermore, each of the 12 types has two distinct subtypes. Each culture is distinct from another but is just as equally valid, valuable, and important in improving different aspects of society.
The four quadrants measure two broad spectrums that explain several different cultural differences. These spectrums are Strength vs Altruism and Individualism vs Collectivism. Cultures that value Strength highly value rank, hierarchies, honor, tradition, sanctity, chivalry, personal capabilities, heroism, and other similar traits. The cultures who score highest in these traits are known as Strong Cultures. On the other end we have cultures that value Altruism. These cultures are known for their cosmopolitanism, liberalism, pacifism, egalitarianism, multiculturism, cultural innovation, nurturance, equality, and several other traits. The cultures who score highest in these traits are the Humane Cultures. Cultures that are moderate on this spectrum are usually more individualistic or collectivistic. Cultures that value Individualism highly value personal authenticity, materialism, liberty, self-determination, personal recreation, privacy, space, entrepreneurialism, social mobility, and other compatibly traits. Highly individualistic cultures are known as Autonomous Cultures. Collectivism is the opposite of Individualism. Collectivistic people value cooperation, cohesion, togetherness, societal wisdom, sacrifice, interpersonal relationships, being frank, understanding things holistically, and other similar traits. Cultures that score high in these categories are Synergist Cultures.
There are still dozens of other cultural traits that have no correlation to these two broad dimensions. We discovered that most of these traits could be placed into three broad categories that we call Cultural Focuses. The three Cultural Focuses are known as the Warm Focus, Professional Focus, and the Refined Focus. Warm Focused Cultures care about emotional expression, treating others like family, friendliness, humor, being casual, sensual pleasures, appreciating personal connections, and other similar traits. Meanwhile, Professional Focused Cultures are direct, economical, short-term focused, factual, proactive, swift, pragmatic, and down-to-earth. Lastly, Refined Focused Cultures are formal, modest, subtle, clean, coordinated, principled, restrained, and stoic. The Cultural Focuses exist among the four Cultural Quadrant and are found all over the world. The Quadrant and Focus together create the Cultural Type.
The Quadrants and Focuses still leave out one extremely important cultural trait that has been observed by anthropologists, business travelers, tourists, and now Zoom users the world over. This spectrum is being Flexible vs Precise. Flexible cultures are versatile, smooth, and lithe. This means that they are more ok with the ambiguities of life, including time. Flexible cultures care less about individual details and people from these cultures are more patient. On the other hand Precise cultures care about details. They have stronger expectations for things and consider being exact a matter of personal integrity. They are specific, prepared, and punctual. This spectrum divides each of the 12 Cultural Types into a Flexible and a Precise Subtype. Now we’ll explain each of the 12 different Cultural Types.
The Synergist Quadrant, like all other Quadrants, has three distinct Cultural Types. These include the Nobles, the Cooperatives, and the Communals. Nobles are both Synergistic and Refined. Even though they are Synergists, they have strong similarities to the Strong Cultures as well. Noble Cultures view things holistically. Everything is part of a greater whole. Family traditions, connections, and personal relationships determine everything in one’s life. Individual sacrifice to the community is highly honored. Cooperative Cultures are both Synergistic and Professional. They care about team work and strive for every member of the community to accomplish their goals. Cooperatives are excellent at sharing resources and creating cohesion among others to build things. They easily trust those who they see as having similar values. Communal Cultures are Synergistic and Warm. The community is everything and individuals are viewed only through their relationships with others. Everyone is part of a large network of extended family, neighbors, and friends that all help each other out through every stage of life. This culture has some similarities with Humane Cultures.
The three Humane Culture types are the Dignified Culture, Altruist Culture, and the Cosmopolitan Culture. Dignified Cultures are Humane Cultures that have a Refined Focus. They care about the dignity of human worth. These cultures are based on community, interconnectivity, and empathy. Thus, they also share similarities with Synergist Cultures. However, they are usually more nurturing, egalitarian, and lenient than Synergist Cultures. They’re very refined in that they’re very purpose driven. They care about causes like environmental protection or social justice. Altruist Cultures are very similar but yet distinct. They are Humane and Warm. They are known for their kindness, compassion, and congeniality. Altruist Cultures are known for their inherently liberal attitudes towards life. They understand the power of non-judgment, rehabilitation, and forgiveness. Altruists are very hopeful, optimistic, affable, equitable, and trusting. Cosmopolitan Cultures are Humane and Professional. They also share commonalities with Autonomous Cultures. Cosmopolitan cultures are diverse, multicultural, and progressive. They are known for their modern, urbane, and sophisticated values towards life. Cosmopolitans are forward thinking people who care about innovation, transparency, and proactivity. These cultures are globally conscious, market driven, and positively optimistic.
Autonomous Cultures are all highly individualistic and include Naturalist Cultures, Individualist Cultures, and Sovereign Cultures. Naturalist Cultures are Autonomous and Warm. They share several similarities with Humane Cultures. They are known for valuing self-determination. They are casual and easy going. These Cultures prefer to take a very relaxed approach to life and value individual differences, idiosyncrasies, and lifestyle choices. Everyone needs the opportunity to be their authentic self. Individualist Cultures are Autonomous and Professional. These people are extremely direct, to the point, and down-to-earth. They are clear communicators who like things to be spelled out. They’re very independent people. Individualists are extremely entrepreneurial and believe that with enough work anyone can make their dreams come true. They celebrate personal achievements, financial success, and fame. They’re driven, practical, and influential. Sovereign Cultures are Autonomous and Refined. They also share several commonalities with Strong Cultures. Individual rights and personal sovereignty are supreme. The right to self-determination, privacy, and land ownership is sacred to Sovereign people. They care deeply about personal autonomy and the traditions that protect it. They don’t like people telling them what to do preferring to live by their own personal principles.
The three Strong Culture Types are the Ambitious Cultures, Vibrant Cultures, and Valiant Cultures. Ambitious Cultures are Strong Cultures with a Professional Focus. They’re known for being action oriented. Ambitious people are motivated, real, authentic, and just ‘say it as it is’. They highly value meritocracy and want to make sure that everyone has opportunities to grow by exerting their selves. They’re quite traditional as well and often care about family values. Vibrant Cultures are both Strong and Warm. They are known for their power, passion, and zest for life. Vibrant Cultures depend on deep honor and respect for traditions. Everyone knowns their place and strives to do what’s expected of them. They treat people close to them like family and have very high expectations for those that they love. Everyone is expected to work hard and contribute to their families. Gender roles, holidays, food, and other traditions are very important. Valiant Cultures are Strong Cultures with a Refined Focus. They are truly known for their time-honored traditions. Respect, rank, and authority are valued strongly. Hierarchies are crucial to Valiant Cultures. They are known for their high level of integrity and their ethical codes of conduct. Valiant Cultures are patriotic, responsible, heroic, and chivalrous. They are also very clean, formal, and dutiful. Valiant societies often run orderly and smooth.
Culture Type is an integral part of each person’s personality and is the building block of society. Every society is an amalgamation of different Culture Types that can work together in harmony. Often time they are similar because they share the same Focus or Quadrant. Certain Culture Types are much more predominant in certain parts of the world than others. However, each and every Culture Type can be found anywhere. Albeit, people with rarer Culture Types for certain societies often feel like fish out of water. For example, Nobles are common in China but that doesn’t mean that everyone in China belongs to that Type. There will be a significant number of people belonging to the Valiant, Cooperative, Communal, and Ambitious Culture Types as well. The United States may have an average culture that has been researched by academics, social scientists, politicians, and others. But that is only an average. Even though there is a much higher percentage of Autonomous Cultures represented in the U.S., one can find every single Cultural Type in the United States and other diverse nations.
As the world gets more diverse, richly multifaceted, and confusingly complex, it becomes more necessary to understand culture. Most wars have not been fought over resources, but due to cultural differences. Two or more Culture Types will often decide to go to war. Political divisions break down or become heavily muted when we can understand the values and communication styles of each other. It is vital to understand Culture Types and differences in this globally connected world.