In Memoriam Geert Hofstede (1928-2020)

It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Geert Hofstede, professor emeritus of Organizational Anthropology and International Management. Geert reached the blessed age of 91. This world-renowned cultural scholar is survived by his wife Maaike, his four children, ten grandchildren and five greatgrandchildren. According to his oldest son Gert Jan, with whom Geert co-authored major work and who will go on carry the torch, his father was ‘ready to go’.

From 1985 until his retirement in 1993, Geert was a member of the School of Business and Economics. He was invited to come to Maastricht after his rapidly growing scientific reputation in the wake of the publication of his magnum opus, Culture’s Consequences (1980). Geert conducted this study, which was refused by no fewer than sixteen publishers until Sage courageously decided to publish it, as manager of personnel research with the American multinational IBM. Based on a survey of 117,000 questionnaires, responded to by IBM-employees in 50 different countries and three country-regions, Geert arrived at surprising findings. The replies to all sorts of work-related questions differed not so much according to the position, department, age or gender of the respondents, but in relation to their nationality. From his inexhaustible source of data, Geert distilled four national cultural dimensions: Individualism versus Collectivism, Power distance, Uncertainty avoidance and Masculinity versus Femininity. Later he added Long-term orientation versus Short-term orientation and Indulgence versus Restraint. This tool served as basis for many studies of the impact of national cultural differences on all sorts of organizational aspects: strategy, marketing, HRM, and even accounting and financing. Importantly, this model put the cultural values of individual managers and staff centre-stage. Hofstede’s work has often been applied in businesses and in consultancy as well.

Geert was invited to work at the UM also to set up the curriculum of International Management (IM). Later on, this field developed into the highly successful field of International Business, but Geert must be credited for having laid the groundwork. As this effort proved to be demanding at times, Geert left Maastricht with mixed feelings. Fortunately, all was straightened out later on, and he would still give several memorable workshops and guest lectures for an enthusiastic audience of students and staff from various faculties, both from within and outside of the UM.

In its obituary, NRC Handelsblad called Hofstede ‘the free-ranging professor who wrote a pioneering standard work’. Geert himself coined this notion of ‘free-ranging professor’ for his approach. He saw himself preferably as a scholar active in between the established academic disciplines. He is well characterized indeed as a generalist – as one who builds bridges between fields such as psychology, anthropology and business management. Both the UM and its School of Business and Economics are much indebted to Geert. We wish those dear to him all the strength to cope with their great loss, and we are convinced that his academic legacy will continue to produce fruitful results.

The life and work of Geert Hofstede will be commemorated during a mini symposium, to be held on March 20, from 14:00 to 16:00, in the SBE Auditorium at Tongersestraat 53. It is possible to sign up for this event through the following link

Geert Hofstede

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