Do you have the time to talk about time?
You should, because understanding cultural concepts of time matters a great deal to cross-cultural relations.
Time-orientation researchers Alexander Gonzalez and Phillip Zimbardo wrote:
“Every child learns a time perspective that is appropriate to the values and needs of his society.”
As we’ve discussed these past few weeks, the way a society views time can explain a lot about their cultural baobab.
One last type of time orientation is timeline cognitivity.
Let’s take a look at how timeline-oriented cultures view and value time.
“Time is a wave or a black hole could not bend it; humanity rides the crest of an infinite number of waves that are perceived as linear in their limited frame of reference.” ― Ken Poirot
Timelines are linear, as are timeline-oriented cultures.
They view everything in linear terms with a linear frame of reference.
Individuals in such societies tend to be very detail-oriented but struggle to absorb and understand multiple events simultaneously.
Timeline-oriented cultures also tend to be monochronic, completing one task at a time.
Individuals from such cultures are generally not prone to multitasking.
Monochronic, timeline-oriented cultures value schedules and demonstrate strict time management.
The Devil is in the Details
When it comes to managing or negotiating across cultures, some knowledge of and practice in dealing with these differences in time perspectives and communication styles is key to succeeding in business.