Example of Linear-active and multi-active cultures

Yesterday I was reading an interesting book 'When Culture collides' by Richard D. Lewis and then come across the following example of Liner-active multi-active culture and somehow linked Indians to one of these categories as well. If can find out 'Indian belong to which category ?'  by reading following :

Sven Svensson is a Swedish businessman, living in Lisbon. A few weeks ago he was invited by a Portuguese acquaintance, Antonio, to play tennis at 10am. Sven turned up at the tennis court on time, already in tennis gear and ready to play.Antonio arrived half an hour late, in the company of a friend, Carlos, from whom he was buying some land. They had been discussing the purchase that morning and had prolonged the discussion, so Antonio had brought Carlos along in order to finalise the details during the journey. They continued the business while Antonio changed into his tennis clothes, with Sven listening to all they said. At 10.45 they went on court and Antonio continued the discussion with Carlos, while hitting practice balls with Sven.

At this point another acquaintance of Antonio’s, Pedro, arrived in order to confirm a sailing date with Antonio for the weekend. Antonio asked Sven to excuse him for a moment and walked off court to talk to Pedro. After chatting to Pedro for five minutes, Antonio resumed his conversation with the waiting Carlos and eventually turned back to the waiting Sven to begin playing tennis at 11. When Sven remarked that the court had only been booked from 10 to 11am, Antonio reassured him that he had phoned in advance to rebook it until 12 noon. No problem.

It will come as no surprise to you to hear that Sven was very unhappy about the course of events. Why? He and Antonio live in two different worlds or, to put it more exactly, use two different time systems. Sven, as a good Swede, belongs to a culture which uses linear-active time – that is to say, he does one thing at a time in the sequence he has written down in his diary. His diary that day said 8am get up, 9am breakfast, 9.15 change into tennis clothes, 9.30 drive to tennis court, 10–11am play tennis, 11–11.30 beer and shower, 12.15 lunch, 2pm go to the office, and so on.

Antonio, who had seemed to synchronise with him for tennis from 10 to 11, had disorganised Sven’s day. Portuguese like Antonio follow a multiactive time system, that is, they do many things at once, often in an unplanned order.

Multi-active cultures are very flexible. If Pedro interrupted Carlos’s conversation which was already in the process of interrupting Sven’s tennis, this was quite normal and acceptable in Portugal. It is not acceptable in Sweden, neither is it in Germany or Britain.

Linear-active people, like Swedes, Swiss, Dutch and Germans, do one thing at a time, concentrate hard on that thing and do it within a scheduled timescale. These people think that in this way they are more efficient and get more done.

Multi-active people think they get more done their way. Let us look again at Sven and Antonio. If Sven had not been disorganised by Antonio, he would undoubtedly have played tennis, eaten at the right time and done some business. But Antonio had had breakfast, bought some land, played tennis and fixed up his sailing, all by lunchtime. He had even managed to rearrange the tennis booking. Sven could never live like this, but Antonio does, all the time.

Multi-active people are not very interested in schedules or punctuality. They pretend to observe them, especially if a linear-active partner insists. They consider reality to be more important than manmade appointments. Reality for Antonio that morning was that his talk with Carlos about land was unfinished. Multi-active people do not like to leave conversations unfinished. For them completing a human transaction is the best way they can invest their time. So he took Carlos to the tennis and finished buying the land while hitting balls. Pedro further delayed the tennis, but Antonio would not abandon the match with Sven. That was another human transaction he wished to complete. So they played till 12 or 12.30 if necessary. But what about Sven’s lunch at 12.15? Not important, says Antonio. It’s only 12.15 because that’s what Sven wrote in his diary.

So Indians culture is Linear-active and multi-active  ?...you got it right !!


Anurag Vidyarthi said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Another interesting story :
A BBC producer, often used to visit Europe to visit BBC agents. He never failed to get through his appointments in Denmark and Germany, but always had trouble in Greece. The Greek agent was a popular man in Athens and had to see so many people each day that he invariably ran over time. So my friend usually missed his appointment or waited three or four hours for the agent to turn up. Finally, after several trips, the producer adapted to the multi-active culture. He simply went to the Greek’s secretary in late morning and asked for the agent’s schedule for the day. As the Greek conducted most of his meetings in hotel rooms or bars, the BBC producer would wait in the hotel lobby and catch him rushing from one appointment to the next. The multi-active Greek, happy to see him, would not hesitate to spend half an hour with him and thus make himself late for his next appointment.

Anurag Vidyarthi said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

When people from a linear-active culture work together with people from a multi-active culture, irritation results on both sides. Unless one party adapts to the other – and they rarely do – constant crises will occur.

Ljubo said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Nice article. I am also fascinated by the concept, and I guess you are right about conflicts. I guess compromise would include an evaluation of the circumstances - something which is much more common in multi-linear cultures.

Blog Archive