If we explore the Colombian culture through the lens of the 6-D Model©, we can get a good overview of the deep drivers of its culture relative to other world cultures.
This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal – it expresses the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities amongst us. Power Distance is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.
At 67 Colombia scores high on the scale of the PDI, so it is a society that believes that inequalities amongst people are simply a fact of life. This inequality is accepted in all layers of society, so a union leader will have a lot of concentrated power compared to his union management team, and they in turn will have more power than other union members. A similar phenomenon will be observed among business leaders and among the highest positions in government.
The fundamental issue addressed by this dimension is the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. It has to do with whether people´s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “We”. In Individualist societies people are supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only. In Collectivist societies people belong to ‘in groups’ that take care of them in exchange for loyalty.
At a score of 13 Colombia is amongst the lowest Individualist scores; in other words, it lies amongst the most collectivistic cultures in the world, beaten only by Ecuador, Panama and Guatemala.
Since the Colombians are a highly collectivistic people, belonging to an in-group and aligning yourself with that group’s opinion is very important. Combined with the high scores in PDI, this means that groups often have their strong identities tied to class distinctions. Loyalty to such groups is paramount and often it is through “corporative” groups that people obtain privileges and benefits which are not to be found in other cultures. At the same time, conflict is avoided, in order to maintain group harmony and to save face.
Relationships are more important than attending to the task at hand, and when a group of people holds an opinion on an issue, they will be joined by all who feel part of that group. Colombians will often go out of their way to help you if they feel there is enough attention given to developing a relationship, or if they perceive an “in-group” connection of some sort, however thin. However, those perceived as “outsiders” can easily be excluded or considered as “enemies”. The preferred communication style is context-rich, so public speeches and written documents are usually extensive and elaborate.
A high score (Masculine) on this dimension indicates that the society will be driven by competition, achievement and success, with success being defined by the winner / best in field – a value system that starts in school and continues throughout organisational life.
A low score (Feminine) on the dimension means that the dominant values in society are caring for others and quality of life. A Feminine society is one where quality of life is the sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not admirable. The fundamental issue here is what motivates people, wanting to be the best (Masculine) or liking what you do (Feminine).
At 64 Colombia is a Masculine society – highly success oriented and driven. Colombians are competitive and status-oriented, yet collectivistic rather than Individualist. This means that competition is directed towards members of other groups (or social classes), not towards those who are perceived as members of your own in-group.
People seek membership in groups which give them status and rewards linked to performance, but they often sacrifice leisure against work, as long as this is supported by group membership and by power holders.
The dimension Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings with it anxiety and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways. The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these is reflected in the score on Uncertainty Avoidance.
At 80 Colombia has a high score on Uncertainty Avoidance which means that as a nation they are seeking mechanisms to avoid ambiguity. Emotions are openly expressed; there are (extensive) rules for everything and social conservatism enjoys quite a following. This is also reflected in religion, which is respected, followed by many and conservative. Rules are not necessarily followed, however: this depends on the in-group’s opinion, on whether the group feels the rules are applicable to their members and it depends, ultimately, on the decision of power holders, who make their own rules. In work terms this results in detailed planning that may not necessarily be followed in practice.
The combination of high UAI with the scores on the previous dimensions means that it is difficult to change the status quo, unless a figure of authority is able to amass a large group of people and lead them towards change.
Long Term Orientation
This dimension describes how every society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing with the challenges of the present and future, and societies prioritise these two existential goals differently. Normative societies. which score low on this dimension, for example, prefer to maintain time-honoured traditions and norms while viewing societal change with suspicion. Those with a culture which scores high, on the other hand, take a more pragmatic approach: they encourage thrift and efforts in modern education as a way to prepare for the future.
With a low score of 13, Colombian culture is classified as normative. People in such societies have a strong concern with establishing the absolute Truth; they are normative in their thinking. They exhibit great respect for traditions, a relatively small propensity to save for the future, and a focus on achieving quick results.
One challenge that confronts humanity, now and in the past, is the degree to which small children are socialized. Without socialization we do not become “human”. This dimension is defined as the extent to which people try to control their desires and impulses, based on the way they were raised. Relatively weak control is called “Indulgence” and relatively strong control is called “Restraint”. Cultures can, therefore, be described as Indulgent or Restrained.
Scoring a very high 83 in this dimension, Colombia is shown to be an Indulgent country. People in societies classified by a high score in Indulgence generally exhibit a willingness to realise their impulses and desires with regard to enjoying life and having fun. They possess a positive attitude and have a tendency towards optimism. In addition, they place a higher degree of importance on leisure time, act as they please and spend money as they wish.