What is Culture? Insights into a key driver of behaviour

15th Jul 2021

What is Culture? Insights into a key driver of behaviour

This white paper aims to explore the different components of culture and behaviours, and how it impacts the way we see the world, from health outcomes and the perception of chronic conditions to environmental concerns and the ageing process. Explore various currents of thought, theories and concrete case studies to help get a better understanding of what culture is, and how deep it runs. With insights from various experts, we looked into how industries are embracing different cultures and using it as a tool to create a more connected world.

“As this paper illustrates, reconciliation rather than compromise is the essence – by translating values into behaviours. There are so many changes happening in our current times that are linked to the introduction of ever more powerful digital tools and machines. Our focus is often technical and there is not so much attention devoted to the human and cultural side of digitalisation. Diversity of diversity has led to dilemma management …. dilemmas are shared amongst all human beings but that the reconciliation approaches are culturally defined – that reconciliations rather than choosing between two desired states lead to more sustainable results for the global community.” Fons Trompenaars, Owner and Founder, Trompenaars Hampden-Turner Consulting

Culture is a term that is often misused or misunderstood, one of those generic terms that people use to define a trend, phenomenon or a group of behaviours. There is no template, no reference point on which all cultures are based. It is as multidimensional and ever evolving as the world we live in today, constantly being shaped by a multitude of factors and events.

When we think about it, it is easy to imagine the visual representations of culture that we see in everyday life. Yet culture and identity are much more profound. To explain this, we tend to think of identity like an iceberg; depending on your perspective, this could be personal identity, brand identity, or perhaps the identity of your organisation. The visible part of the iceberg represents external behaviour, out in the open for everyone to see. Yet the large bulk of the iceberg, the foundation below the surface, represents culture.

If we take this metaphor, we can interpret culture as the bedrock on which our behaviours are formed, yet our behaviour is only a small part of it. It is therefore much more profound than simply what is portrayed on the surface.

Therefore, whilst there are obvious elements, the things that we present in our external behaviour and those that we even rejoice and celebrate, there is also a huge part of culture that we keep private. Things that are so hidden, that we aren’t even conscious of them. It can therefore have a great subconscious impact on our perceptions of the world, as well as our experiences and behaviours within it.

Increasing our understanding of different cultures and sub-cultures across the world, provides an eye-opening insight into different people’s conscious and sub-conscious perspectives, decisions, actions and experiences. We should never stop learning about it they are as ever-evolving, multi-dimensional, and extraordinary as the world we live in today.

Thank you to our experts for their fantastic contributions:

  • Peter Mousaferiadis, CEO & Founder, Cultural Infusion
  • Jan Liska, Global Patient Strategy Lead at Sanofi
  • Miyabi Kumagai, Brand Culture & Heritage Manager at Shiseido
  • Chris Arning, Founder and Creative Strategist at Creative Semiotics Ltd

“UNESCO reports that 75% of conflict has a cultural dimension. Surely, if we better understood culture, we could better understand behaviour, thus leading to more cohesive and harmonious global communities.” – Peter Mousaferiadis, CEO & Founder, Cultural Infusion.


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