Cultural others: a new conception of cross-cultural management
AuthorLe Lievre, Kathleen M.
AffiliationMelbourne School of Graduate Research
Document TypePhD thesis
CitationsLe Lievre, K. M. (2011). Cultural others: a new conception of cross-cultural management. PhD thesis, Melbourne School of Graduate Research, The University of Melbourne.
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2011 Dr. Kathleen M. Le Lievre
Organisations have increasingly become stages for cultural pluralism through engaging in workforce diversity, cross-border expansion and international cooperative arrangements. This thesis argues that much of the cross-cultural management literature has portrayed cultural differences as potentially damaging to organisational effectiveness. In emphasising culture-as-difference, this literature has marginalised a view of culture as differentiated perspectives in ways of ‘seeing’ and ‘doing’. This thesis contends that culture is a unique form of knowledge that can make a valuable contribution to the organisational learning practices of organisations and argues that this can be facilitated through better understanding of the impact of the organisational environment on ‘cultural others’. The argument is advanced through exploring traditional conceptions of culture and organisational culture that within organisations encourage management practices that mitigate individual cultural differences and promote cultural homogeneity based on unifying organisational values, beliefs and goals. As a result, organisational learning is confined to a subset of what is known by cultural others, filtered by the organisation’s own actions. It is argued that a new conception of culture is needed that considers an individual’s cognition as basic to the formation of knowledge as cultural and therefore as more than the de-contextualised accumulation of information in the ‘black box’ of the individual mind. As such, a framework of cognitive science, and in particular connectionist theory of learning and distributed cognition, are used to provide a more holistic account of knowledge as the meaning and actions that arise from situated learning and experiences that are contextually bound. At the individual level this thesis seeks to explain how individuals come to share in the ‘knowing’ and the ‘doing’ required in their activities. This view is expanded to the practice of workgroups where individual knowledge is combined, revealing the nature of cognition as socially distributed and regulating the group’s activities. Approaching the argument from the organisational context, this thesis draws attention to the factors that influence an organisation’s structure and culture, which in turn influence their perception of the value of knowledge and the learning strategies they employ. In particular, it focuses on ‘organisational culture’ as setting the context for the organisation’s activities which workgroups interpret to frame their practice. In bringing individual cognition and organisational context together, the discontinuity between the two is exposed as inhibiting both the effectiveness of ‘cultural others’ in deploying their knowledge and the organisation’s opportunity for realising value in differing perspectives and practices. To redress this failure, this thesis proposes a new framework as connection to practice that guides organisations to reconceptualise culture as knowledge to support their organisational learning ambitions.
Keywordscross-cultural management; connectionism; culture; learning; knowledge
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