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12 Dimensions of Culture

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

Knowing where you stand will equip you with a rich language to identify your personal cultural preferences and empower you to be successful in global intercultural workspaces.

Edward T. Hall, one of the founding fathers of intercultural communication studies, said:

Culture hides much more than it reveals, and strangely enough what it hides, it hides most effectively from its own participants.

We found that to be true, both in our own lives and in figuring out the cultural preferences of people around us.


How do you illuminate your own values and beliefs?

We are faced with people that carry a specific passport, have a specific accent, or have features that seemed to indicate a certain ethnic background, but often are not an indicator of their cultural preferences. In a world full of globetrotters and second or third-generation expatriates, national or cultural labeling doesn't work. We need a framework that accurately measures cultural preferences, and helps us in our day-to-day interactions.

Out of that need came the Cultural Mapping inventory (CMi) which uses the 12 Dimensions of Culture to equip you with a structured framework and a neutral language to better understand yourself and others. With it, you will be able to assess the cultural preferences of the people around you on the fly and understand how to adjust your behavior to navigate those cultural preferences.


The 12 Dimensions

The Cultural Mapping Inventory gives you a comprehensive way to measure and talk about cultural behavioral preferences. These preferences form a multi-layered snapshot of a specific person at a moment in time. Cultural preferences can be different depending on the context, and they’re not consistent in the same as personality and character.

The Cultural Mapping Inventory measures Cultural Behavioral Preference but it doesn't measure how easy it is for you to stretch across the 12 Dimensions of Culture. Your ability to stretch across the Dimensions is called Cultural Agility.

The 12 Dimensions give us the ability to accurately analyze and map the cultural human terrain around us. This allows us to make more intelligent decisions about the intercultural complexities that we face every day. We equip you to observe and listen for indicators of cultural preference and integrate them into your communication, collaboration, negotiating, and decision-making.

It has proven to be incredibly exciting to teach people the 12 dimensions, and to see how it empowers them to be more successful in their globally diverse environments.

There is an article to explain each of the 12 dimensions; they are listed and linked below. Each Dimension is a spectrum with two opposing tendencies at either end. Through our Culture Mapping Inventory (CMi) assessment, any person can be "mapped" to a point along each of those spectrums (the "snapshot"), and the combination of these snapshots creates a unique, individual cultural profile. Things get even more interesting when you see the Group Report for your intercultural team.

Growth – Do you prefer to see your organization invest more in its people or material things like infrastructure?

Relationship – Do you see relationships as situational, where a friendship is restricted to a few parts of your life, or are relationships universal, where a formed relationship will extend to almost all areas of life?

Outlook – Are you innovation-oriented, focused on plans and ideas as a measurement for success in the future, or are you tradition-oriented, focusing on past achievements as a measurement for success and status?

Destiny – Do you direct your destiny, trying to shape your circumstances so that they fit your goals, or are you more directed by the outside world, adapting to the circumstances, using them to reach certain goals?

Context – Is your culture formal with a high context, where you need to know a lot of unwritten rules to become an insider, or is it an informal culture, with a low context, where how you behave does not matter as much, as long as it is meant sincerely?

Connecting – Do you see people easily included in a group when they happen to be at the same place or are appointments and discussions an exclusive thing for the people involved, and others should wait for their turn?

Expression – Are feelings and emotions revealed and expressed freely and uninhibited (both verbal and non-verbal), or are they concealed and subdued, seeing the mastering of emotions as the correct thing to do?

Decision-Making – Do you prefer to work by the rules and bylaws when decisions are made, or is it more important to take into account the relationship between the people involved?

Planning – Are you more time-oriented or people and event-oriented when planning and scheduling your life?

Communication – Do you communicate directly and openly, or is it more appropriate to use an indirect, or perhaps a third-party form of communication?

Accountability – Are you more individualistic—where you are primarily accountable to yourself—or are the opinions, growth, and direction of your community more important than your own?

Status – Is status best ascribed to people due to their birth, class, particular college where they studied, or is it achieved by people through hard work, diligence, and personal success?


By applying the Cultural Mapping Inventory that uses these 12 dimensions to your organization, you can help determine your own corporate culture, and manage your global identity. We believe that every global executive should have an idea of where they stand on these 12 dimensions.

This is just one piece of KnowledgeWorkx' core framework. View the whole framework here.

To begin your culture learning journey, Contact us or get our mini-ebook: Inter-Cultural Intelligence: from surviving to thriving in the global space.


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