In a globalised business world, the interaction of cultures in a business setting C436is a crucial but strangely overlooked area of study. Fons Trompenaars wants to put that right. Interview by George Bickerstaffe.
In the field of multiculturalism, the Dutch have something of an intellectual monopoly. Geert Hofstede is generally acknowledged as the thinker who first provided useful insights into the complex dynamics of multiculturalism. The leader of the second generation of thinking on this issue is another Dutchman, Fons Trompenaars.
Trompenaars is voluble and humorous. His background is suitably multicultural. He has a PhD from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, has worked with the Royal Dutch Shell Group in nine countries and is now director of the Trompenaars Hampden-Turner consulting firm, which has offices in the Netherlands and the US.
Trompenaars’ intellectual partner is the UK academic Charles Hampden-Turner. Their books include Riding the Waves of Culture, The Seven Cultures of Capitalism, Building Cross-Cultural Competence and, most recently, 21 Leaders for the 21st Century Trompenaars talks a lot about “cultural reconciliation” – the need to deal with the host of cultural differences between employees or, for that matter, citizens of a country. Reconciled cultures, he argues, have created a culture of their own by enriching the cultures of the other partners involved. Organisations and societies that can successfully reconcile cultural differences are simply better at creating wealth, he says.
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