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cultural distance
Peter B. Smith
Cultural distance is a concept first formulated by Kogut and Singh (1988) as a tool for
predicting the difficulties and opportunities that
would be encountered by companies engaging in
foreign direct investment (see FOREIGN DIRECT
INVESTMENT). These authors constructed an
index of the cultural distance of two nations
from one another by summing the difference
between scores on each of four dimensions of
national culture that had been identified by
Hofstede (1980) (see HOFSTEDE’S CULTURAL
DIMENSIONS). Numerous studies have been
reported that use this index, but early findings
were inconclusive with some studies showing
beneficial effects of greater cultural distance
and others favoring lesser cultural distance,
or showing no effect at all. Shenkar (2001)
identified several reasons why this index could
yield unreliable results. In particular, he urged
the use of separate distance scores for each
cultural dimension, as the effects of cultural
distance on different dimensions may cancel one
another out. Furthermore, some dimensions
may be more important than others in particular
circumstances. The majority of researchers
continue to use scores derived from Hofstede’s
project, but scores based on more recent
cultural data are now preferable (Drogendijk
and Slangen, 2006). Stahl and Voigt (2008)
proposed that the conflicting results could
best be understood by distinguishing differing
types of mergers and acquisitions (M&As) (see
envisage low integration of the two organizations, cultural distance is predicted to generate
beneficial synergy, whereas for M&As that
envisage high integration, cultural distance is
predicted to be problematic. Stahl and Voigt
conducted a meta-analysis including 46 studies
of over 10 000 M&As, and their predictions were
supported. The effects found were stronger
for measures of organizational cultural distance
than for measures of national cultural distance.
Measures of cultural distance provide a static
index of the potential problems and opportunities that organizations involved in M&As
may face, but they do not address the degree
to which differential use of managerial expertise may contribute to the outcomes that are
Drogendijk, R. and Slangen, A. (2006) Hofstede,
Schwartz or managerial perceptions? The effects of
different cultural distance measures on establishment mode choices by multinational enterprises.
International Business Review, 15, 361–380.
Hofstede, G. (1980) Culture’s Consequences: International
Differences in Work-related Values, Sage, Beverly Hills,
Kogut, B. and Singh, H. (1988) The effect of national
culture on the choice of entry mode. Journal of International Business Studies, 19, 411–432.
Shenkar, O. (2001) Cultural distance revisited: towards a
more rigorous conceptualization and measurement of
cultural differences. Journal of International Business
Studies, 32, 519–536.
Stahl, G.K. and Voigt, A. (2008) Do cultural differences
matter in mergers and acquisitions? A tentative model
and examination. Organization Science, 19, 160–176.
Wiley Encyclopedia of Management, edited by Professor Sir Cary L Cooper.
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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