Monthly Archives: January 2019


Western (Germany) house/ castle, roof slopes down


Below: Hangzhou garden. In Chinese architecture with roof turned up curved ends.

Notice that rivers or passage ways in Chinese gardens, do not follow a straight path but are meandering. One is blocked from the view of what’s in front. Alluding to the philosophy of being indirect and allowing privacy to those who are on the same path


Photo credit: Himself

Recruitment/ Hiring practices

Individualist cultures – individual is hired based on his/her competencies (skills). Trust is based on one’s skills.

Collectivist cultures – loyalty to one’s in-group/ company is valued, hence there is a preference towards hiring those with similar social ties, value and social norms. Trust is based on not letting down one’s in-group

Different Attitudes Toward Conflict

In individualistic cultures, people tend to be verbally direct: they value communication openness, differences in views are aired openly

Collectivist group, indirect communication is preferred. Disagreement or Conflict is seen as embarrassing or demeaning. Differences are best worked out quietly and indirectly. Managers who work in cross-cultural environments must learn how to adapt their communication/ leadership styles accordingly.

This view towards conflict and communication hence affect the HR performance appraisal process

Individualist – direct feedback especially on areas to improve is accepted.

Collectivist – indirect feedback is preferred. Receiving negative feedback is received badly as shame, a loss of face and weakness.

Rewards and promotion

Individualist cultures – rewards and promotion is based on individual’s achievement, self interests.

Collectivist cultures – rewards is based on loyalty to team and company. Promotion may even be based on loyalty to company, e.g. years working in company, and seniority is respected.

  1. Examine how your company structures its compensation and rewards.

When I switched careers from the foreign service to the private sector, I was very impressed when the senior leadership went for a 2-day team bonding exercise. With high expectations, I asked my boss, “Are we going to have more cooperation from Dept A after this?”

Today, I’m much wiser. As much as a company wants to promote team work, there is a need to go beyond socialisation and games we play. The type of people you hire. Driven by win-lose or win-win. The way rewards and status are structured. To promote company loyalty, organisations give out company shares or team bonus.

2. How is status ascribed?

Do employees come from a certain school, e.g. Havard/ Ivy League graduates? Children of a certain social class? If so, you are more collectivist than you think.

3. What stories are told of your heroes?

Examine the stories people tell about heroes in the company. Is it about the risk they take, and the money they make? Or whether they live out company values of trust and teamwork?

4. How are differences resolved?

Is there a blame culture or pointing fingers? When your back is turned, people say nasty things.

5. What values are you bringing into the company?

Beyond the color of your skin, the accent and the gender, do you bring in people who embrace your values? Who are you attempting to change ?

Beyond Herman Miller Chairs or free lunches and corporate values emblazoned on company walls, what is unspoken and hidden may say more of your culture (National, organisational or even profession).

Have a coffee chat with a friend, instead of visiting company website or attending corporate presentations to understand what the real corporate culture is.

US, Australia and UK
Loyal to self and immediate family
Expect to take care of oneself
Asia, Middle East
Loyal to wider group
Closely bonded social network, members look after each other
Low Power distance
UK, Australia, US
Subordinates expect to be involved in decision-making
Flat and decentralised structure
High Power distance
Asia, Middle East
Subordinates expect to be told what to do
Ideal boss is a benevolent autocrat
Top-down, centralised decision-making
Low uncertainty avoidance
Anglo, Nordic
Dislike rules, written/ unwritten
Less formal and standardisation
Flexible, ready to accept changes  
High uncertainty avoidance
Germany, Japan
Prefer security, order, control
Prefer rules, written or unwritten
More formal and standardisation
Reluctance to accept change
Japan, Germany
culture values assertiveness, competition, and materialism
apologies are a sign of guilt, weakness and lack of confidence.
India, Indonesia
Value spirituality, relationships and show concern for others
Apologies used to promote social bonding and show empathy, e.g. Indonesia.
Long-term Orientation
China, HK, Japan
Focus on the future
Delay short-term enjoyment for future generations
Save for the future
Tradition adapts to circumstance
Short-term Orientation
Anglo countries
Focus on present and past
Spend and instant gratification.
Traditions are sacred
East Asia, Muslim
Perception of fate, pessimism
Freedom of speech is not seen as important
Leisure time is not so important  
Latin America
Enjoy life, fun, optimism
Perception of personal life control
Leisure time is important
Work-life balance
Value freedom of speech  

Professor Geert Hofstede conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of how values in the workplace are influenced by culture. He analysed a large database of employee value scores collected within IBM between 1967 and 1973. Known as the Dimensions Approach, he is frequently cited in universities teaching global businesses management. 

Hofstede’s country comparison tool provides useful insights for executives going overseas for the first time, not to assume that their culture is similar to the host country they are operating in. Try this tool:

Differences matter, and the world is not as flat as you think. 

Another researcher I find insightful is Trompenaars, whose study identified seven dimensions. Five focus on relationships between people, two dimensions concern time management and a culture’s relationship with nature.

For instance, in Achievement cultures, –status is awarded based upon accomplishments. Title is given when relevant to the task. Respect for superior in the hierarchy is based on how effectively his or her job is performed. A young IT executive can be rewarded handsomely based on his skills valued by the market.  

Whereas in Ascription cultures, status is ascribed based upon social position, age. A company where most senior managers are male, middle-age, and qualified by their backgrounds. One is born or married into Royalty, and not through accomplishments.

How much do you observe that your company’s culture is influenced by the national culture of its members? How do members view what is acceptable behavior? Do employees/ managers from diverse cultures have the same perception of corporate values such as loyalty, trust, teamwork, results or even approach to conflict?

A friend recently posted on Facebook a home video taken of a young boy (possibly Russian?) who received a smart phone as a present from his parents. The sheer delight of his face and tears of joy and astonishment were worth a million bucks.

Are we becoming a global village where kids all over the world want the same thing?

Is the world becoming flat as Thomas Friedman observed in his book “The world is Flat“.  Or does national culture still hold sway? The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

As the world becomes a global village, developments in international communication have given us all more exposure to the differences in attitudes and behaviours of other cultures. Due to the development of the global market there is an increase in international trade and workers are much more likely to work in different countries.


Painting of an Indian traditional wedding, Singapore Botanic Gardens.

National culture can affect: the organisation of the business, types of products, ways of promoting products, ways of doing business, the business mission, motivations to work and management style.

Culture may influence what a business is expected to do, particularly in relations to its social responsibilities. Some cultures e.g. individualist may expect businesses to focus on making profits, whereas others may expect businesses to provide employment for family members (e.g.India) or to improve the community (Germany and France) for the good of all.

How much of your behavior is influenced by your culture? Your views of what is beauty, what is good, what is right or wrong behavior?


Last night right after class, I went down to the Singapore River, excited to catch the LightUp of Singapore River for the Bicentennial celebrations of when Raffles sat foot in 1819.

How different it looks at night. Sitting on a bumboat, enjoying the breeze.

Our Singapore Story began even before 1819, our location was useful to the Majapahit empire before, connecting people to the global trade, a rest from the Monsoon winds.

Reflecting how our story began 200 yrs and prior. How will our story end? What is your story?

How are you building bridges, connecting people? Taking a rest from the winds of disruptive change?

Head down to the Singapore river.


I received these jokes this morning and had to share them. Thought they were ingenious, whoever created them.

Beauty of the English language which shows that guessing the root word may have a different meaning.


The following questions were in a UK grade 12 equivalent examination– (Purportedly genuine answers).

Q. What is a turbine?
A. Something an Arab or Sheik wears on his head.

Q. How is dew formed?
A. The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire.

Q. What are steroids?
A. Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs.
(Shoot yourself now, there is little hope.)

Q. Name a major disease associated with cigarettes.
A. Premature death.

Q. How can you delay milk turning sour?
A. Keep it in the cow.
(Simple, but brilliant)

Q. How are the main parts of the body categorised (e.g. The abdomen)?
A. The body is consisted into 3 parts – the brainium, the borax and the abdominal cavity. The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs and the abdominal cavity contains the 5 bowels… A, E, I, O, U

Q. What is the fibula?
A. A small lie.

Q. What does ‘varicose’ mean?
A. Nearby

Q. Give the meaning of the term ‘Caesarean section.’
A. The caesarean section is a district in Rome .

Q. What is a seizure?
A. A Roman Emperor.
(Julius Seizure, I came, I saw, I conked out.)

Q. What is a terminal illness?
A. When you are sick at the airport.

Q. Name the four seasons
A. Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar.


I had to share this!!!

Southeast Asia: An Emerging Market With Booming Digital Growth Singapore Startup Grants Funding Sources – 2018 Guide | Business Funding 16 Singapore Start-Up Grants and Schemes | Rikvin Funding Options for Singapore Startups | Rikvin Thailand Social Impact Hong Kong Start Up Community Start-up networking in …

Read More


Photo: Company reps doing volunteer service in Shanghai

🌿Do you have an idea for doing good?

🌿Want to network with others to do good?

🌿You lack ideas of what to do, or where to give?

🌿Want to make doing good as a career?

Here are some ideas if you do not currently work for a company that does social impact. You can start off by looking at the Social Impact Landscape provided by Asia Venture Philanthropy networks (AVPN) or attend their networking events.

Hackathon Guide


Social Innovation Park



VentureForGood Youth

Central Singapore CDC – Do-Good Fund

Young Change Makers Fund

National Youth Fund

Ideas for Hackathon


CSR in the Value Chain

Social Impact investing

In my visits across larger Asian cities, Im beginning to see more companies using social impact as a way of company bonding. Research shows that when we spend time helping others, our wellness level improves too.

If you are currently enrolled in a university programme, there are resources you can enroll in.

NUS Enterprise