Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers

The link between communication and culture? In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of airplane pilots whose miscommunication led to the deaths of everyone on board.

The problem, according to Gladwell, was their high level of deference to authority, based on Hofstede’s PDI (check out this interactive webpage to test your culture against Switzerland’s). Based on statistical data, the frequency of plane crashes correlated perfectly with countries with a high PDI. In other words, the co-pilot did not dare overrule the pilot out of deference to authority, even though the plane was dangerously low on fuel.

Since the tragedy in 1990, airlines around the world have been conducting training seminars on clear communication – the number one issue in “pilot error” – by coupling high-context pilots (“Look at that ice on the wings”) with their low-context peers from low PDI countries, such as Northern European countries and Australia (“Emergency – we have ice on the wings”)

A great addition to your reading list this Christmas.