Iranian Culture

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Some cultural considerations for applying the Learning Organization model to Iranian organizations Seyyed Babak Alavi and John McCormick University of New South Wales, Australia Presented in 2003 Tehran International Management Conference

Abstract
It has been argued that some management theories and models may not be universal and are based on some cultural assumptions. It is suggested that the effectiveness of the Learning Organization (LO) model across different countries may be associated with cultural differences in terms of some dimensions such as individualism, collectivism, power distance, and future orientation. Given that some Iranian managers have reported high levels of power distance and in-group collectivism and low levels of societal collectivism and future orientation in a recent cross-cultural study, it is argued that aspects of LO such as systems thinking, managing mental models, team learning, and developing shared visions, may face some problems in Iranian organizations. Some theoretical propositions are developed for further empirical investigations.

Keywords: Cross-cultural Management, Learning Organization, Power distance, Individualism, Collectivism Digitally signed by S.B. Alavi DN: cn=S.B. Alavi, c=IR, o=Sharif University of Technology, ou=Department of Management and Economics Reason: I am the author of this document Date: 2005.09.25 06:45:42 +04'30'

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S.B. Alavi

Introduction
It has been argued that some psychological and management theories and models may not be universal and many, which have been developed in industrialized countries, are based on some cultural assumptions (Berry, Poortinga, Segall, and Dasen, 1992; Dastmalchian, Javadian, and Alam, 2001; Hofstede, 1980, 1993, 2001; House, Javidan, Hanges, and Dorfman, 2002; Leung and Bond, 1989). The term ‘etic’ has been proposed to identify those psychological processes of human beings, which are universal. In contrast, the term ‘emic’ has been suggested to classify those, which are culturally specific (Berry et al., 1992; Dastmalchian, et al., 2001; Triandis, 1995). For example, it has been found that leadership attributions can be classified into etic and emic categories (Dastmalchian, et al., 2001; House, et al., 2002). In addition, some have suggested that even similar psychological attributions across cultures may be manifested differently and be consistent with cultural factors (Berry et al., 1992). The emic and etic approaches suggest that the effectiveness of some theories or models to predict individuals’ behaviors may be culturally limited. It has been argued that organizational culture can be highly influenced by societal culture (Hofstede, 2001). People’s organizational behaviors may be partly related to their attitudes, beliefs, and values, which may be affected by some cultural factors (Markus and Kitayama, 1991; Triandis, 1995). In addition, researchers and management theorists understand organizational phenomena based, in part, on some assumptions related to their societies’ cultures (Hofstede, 1993, 2001). This suggests that aspects of some management theories and models, which have come from highly developed countries, may not be completely consistent with the cultural characteristics of other countries, and vice versa. This recognition has encouraged some researchers to examine some management theories and models from cultural perspectives. For example, Management by Objectives (MBO), Maslow’s Theory, Total Quality Management (TQM) and some leadership theories have

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been culturally examined (e.g., Galperin and Lituchy, 1999; Hofstede, 1980, 1993, 2001; Perry, 1997). This paper, based on some past and recent cultural studies, argues that the efficacy of the Learning Organization (LO) model (Senge, 1990; Senge, Kleiner, Roberts, and Ross, 1994) across different countries may vary due to cultural differences. Some theoretical ideas will be developed for further empirical investigation. In addition, it...
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