“One way of improving business performance is by learning that there is a distinct NZ business culture. The expert in this area is Tony Smale of Forté Management."



Things have different meanings depending on where you come from. We all live and work in a multicultural world making it more important than ever to factor this critical consideration into all aspects of management. For a starter, we need to understand what really makes Kiwis tick.

Globalisation increases intercultural interactions. It also increases the probability of cultural misunderstandings, tensions and conflicts. A greater proportion of the workforce is operating outside of their own national culture framework. They manage or are managed by and work with people and serve customers from different cultural backgrounds. Consequently, the need for managers to include national culture in their strategies for management of their staff and engagement with their customers has never been greater. Download infographic.

Understanding national culture and factoring it into strategy is a neglected opportunity in New Zealand. Despite having an increasingly multi-cultural workforce, and trading extensively with people from other cultures, we have been slow to recognise the benefits of evidence based national cultural competence. 


National culture is much deeper and more complex than customs and conventions. We can observe customs and conventions. Learn about and adopt them. National culture is hardwired into our brains and influences every thought and behaviour. Each generation passes down it’s accumulated “wisdom” in the form of its national culture. Children learn how the world works and their role in it:

  • What is right and wrong & how to tell the difference;

  • How to relate to other people – whether groups or individuals are considered more important;

  • How people express their feelings and how involved they get;

  • How they accord status, and how they relate to time & nature.


These are the ideas, beliefs, customs, and social behaviour that make people from one culture different to another.  We can see customs and social behaviour – the way people greet each other, the clothes that they wear and the like. We cannot see their ideas, beliefs and the way their minds process receive, process and respond to information. These all affect marketing engagements, sales, staff performance, productivity and management.

Currently we Kiwis tend to engage with customers and manage multi-cultural staff from our own unique Kiwi perspective. We don't take account of how their minds work compared to our own.  NZTE research for example shows that in many overseas markets people view Kiwis less favourably than we expect.*

Tony and Forté Management are widely regarded as New Zealand’s business experts on the role of national culture. Tony’s MBA dissertation is titled “The Impact of National Culture on New Zealand’s Innovation Outcomes”) . He has spoken and written extensively on the subject. (see here for example) here in New Zealand and overseas

* Here’s how Kiwis are viewed in important markets according to NZTE research:

  • Focused on short-term transactional relationships;

  • Highly risk averse and weak negotiators;

  • Reluctant to understand the customers’ cultures and consumer needs;

  • Inflexible with a “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude;

  • Less fun to do business with than Australians.

Visit our LIBRARY and search for "National culture" to find out more.