Low and High-Context Cultures

Freshman (College 1st year) ・Business ・MLA

The best way to achieve efficient communication within businesses is by recognizing the existing cultural differences in society and predominant communication processes for collective and individualistic cultures. The high and low context cultures include such differences. In this case, the context discusses how much a person knows before they interact. I will examine various ways of replicating universal inclinations in American and Japan in Toyota and Ford's organizational performance. As robust illustrations of high and low context cultures, it is not irrational to accept that both businesses will tolerate the differences that Hall made amid these two opposite traditional structures.

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In the book “Beyond Culture," Edward T. Hall enumerates the most outstanding dissimilarities amid high- and low- context cultures. In this case, high-context beliefs are those who value customs and a chain of command. Such values are existent with firm restrictions on every social group and particularly standards which are resilient features which are acquired within the collective. These values are mostly resistant to change, and because they are created on a pile of customs and practices, they rely a lot on the exchange of implicit communication which is (in the form of body language and facial expressions) amid their members. Such values are rich in context and have habits and traditions which are entrenched in the ordinary psyche.

However, Hall comprehended low-context cultures in a conflicting way. For example, he indicates that they are fashioned on a thinner and more transient human relations. Shared messages are mostly not suggestive and clear since there is shared tradition and understanding from which individuals derive other people’s intention or meaning. Cultures which are low context mostly thrive on change and in most cases disruptive but they essentially individualistic than hierarchical. Communication between individuals from high and low context cultures can have immense problems since they might understand the cultural differences that exist between their backgrounds. For clarity, Hall uses the cultural Iceberg Model to provide an explanation regarding the difference between high and low context cultures.

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On the other hand, the cultural model of an iceberg is informative to any inquiry into how high- and low-context principles function. His ideal sites the presence of an unconscious deposit underneath the more obvious and clear traditional performances and actions that are freely apparent. The conscious or the external part of a culture is what individuals see, and this is just the tip of the iceberg (it includes beliefs and behaviors). The subconscious or the internal part of a culture is below the society's surface, and it includes values, beliefs, and patterns of thought which underlie behavior. Patterns of thought and values are found under society's surface, and these are mostly assimilated by every member over a particular period and in turn communicated or expressed indirectly. Traditions and values differ immensely between the two contexts of culture which affect their business environment greatly. Cultures of high context depend on body language, verbal indications, and expressions of the face while cultures of low context such as America tend to be more categorical and mindful because they lack extra context. On the other hand, Japanese cultures which are cultures of high context adhere to the unconscious layer of values under the surface of the society. They derive their meaning from the objective pool of knowledge which is obvious and legible to its members.

According to Hall, someone has to interact and live within a different culture so that they can establish the type of values and beliefs that exist. The more a culture is less overt within the system it means that an individual has to work harder to find out and this might only be attained through locating oneself within them for a meaningful amount of time. Furthermore, high context is considered as more of subconscious because individuals living in this kind of surroundings have adapted to the internal culture through participating in the culture and they have implicitly learned various things through living in particular countries.

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Business Practices 

In Japan, the workspace is more shared: individuals tend to work together and closer. For instance, Japanese managers do not regularly separate themselves from the workforce and mostly do not even have offices. Instead, they like having their workstations at the center of the action. Such closeness within group members facilitates a high environment of communication. It also permits a polychromic approach to work where numerous tasks are juggled in a simultaneous way.

Teamwork is considered a significant facet of organizational culture. Toyota is considered as a corporation which undertakes the extremely technical operation, and therefore innovation is vital to make the processes effective, easier and cheaper. Toyota inspires teamwork among its employees as well as innovation of fresh processes and products. On several occasions, workforces are distributed into groups based on their characters, and they have permission to work short of intrusion from management. At Toyota, the administration inspires their workers to take blunders as a learning experience, and this has helped a lot in encouraging innovation. Furthermore, the company has a stringent hierarchy, though it allows its employees the freedom to push back. According to the employees exposing problems, voicing contrary opinions and not following bosses blindly are all encouraged in this company.  

Toyota is primarily founded on standards which harness the company’s Japanese culture. Most of these principles are mostly functional by the Japanese in essentially all their activities. Though they are naturally reasonable, (barely displaying emotions), they are comprehensive and apply these effective cultural traits in almost all their endeavors. One of the most important aspects of Toyota in the United States are the methods which the corporation uses to stay prosperous provided the understandable traditional disparity amid Toyota in Japan and its overseas subsidiary. Though the Japanese and Americans have diverse cultures of business, the corporation has been able to work in accord for several years. Some of the major dissimilarities comprise winning approach, communication abilities, and methods of maintaining approaches in both nations.

On the other hand, Ford emphasizes on the company's excellence so as to support innovation within the company. As a company, it acknowledges the significance of excellence so as to thrust its routine upper. It has developed teaching programs which upkeep features of its organizational culture and its workforce is encouraged to learn and improve so as to contribute their ideas for the advancement of the organization. The company is also founded on US low context culture because employees are encouraged to develop individually and compete. Generate ideas and add value to the company. For instance, during meetings employees are encouraged to voice their ideas.

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Country Analysis 

According to studies, Japan is considered a high context culture while the US is a low context. The nation relies heavily on tight bonds, informal networks, and groups. In this case, focus on groups is considered vital because it helps in getting tasks accomplished. Equally, the harmony of the group is dominant, and this is why non-confrontational methods are mostly used. There is also an ordinate difference between individuals who are inside and outside the circle. In short, relationships are the foundation of carrying out businesses. Based on Iceberg model, Hall described some features of culture as being underneath the surface and entrenched in their values. In Japan, as denoted by Hofstede, they thrive on systems of collectivism which focus on interdependent social units such as the family rather than on the individuality. In collectivist cultures, there are unquestioned systems of management which are accountable for organizing teams of employees and the unity of the group. For that reason, Toyota uses the democratic approach of leadership when carrying out all its dominant operations.

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In the United States, there is the model of individualism where people are part of a loosely interwoven society where importance is placed on independence and the self. In this type of society, employees need freedom to perform their tasks individually and desire challenging work (which according to this workforce it is more vital than personal affiliations) which will assist them to attain self-actualization. The US is mostly guided by the American dream which is fashioned into the working model. This philosophy implies that every individual can succeed and flourish financially by working hard. This idea surfaces in several ways within the United States, and it is considered the driving force behind several individuals' motivation to move to the US. The notion contributes to a firm system and work ethic which is based on merit (the belief that hard work is rewarded). The dream materializes for some while it ends up being a myth for some leading to the continued increasing gap between the rich and the poor within the United States.

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