Cultural differences in decision making


The rational model makes no acknowledgment of cultural differences. But Arabs, for instance, don’t necessarily make decisions the same way that Canadians do. Therefore, we need to recognize that the cultural background of the decision maker can have significant influence on his or her selection of problems, depth of analysis, the importance placed on logic or whether organizational decisions should be made autocratically by an individual manager or collectively in groups.

Cultures, for example, differ in terms of time orientation, the importance of rationality, their belief in the ability of people to solve problems, and their preference for collective decision making. Differences in time orientation help us understand why managers in Egypt will make decisions at a much slower and more deliberate pace than their American counterparts. Although rationality is valued in North America, that’s not true everywhere in the world. A North American manager might make an important decision intuitively, but he or she knows that it’s important to appear to proceed in a rational fashion. This is because rationality is highly valued in the West. In countries such as Iran, where rationality is not defied, efforts to appear rational are not necessary.

Some cultures emphasize solving problems, while others focus on accepting situations as they are. The United States falls in to the former category; Thailand and Indonesia are examples of cultures that fall into the latter category. Because problem-solving managers believe they can and should change situations to their benefit, America managers might identify a problem long before their Thai or Indonesian counterparts would choose to recognize it as such.

Decision making by Japanese managers is much more group-oriented than in the United States. The Japanese value conformity and cooperation. So before Japanese CEOs make an important decision, they collect a large amount of information, which is then used in consensus-forming group decisions.