We all know the difference between hard factors and soft factors. Hard factors can be observed, defined, and most importantly quantified. Soft factors, in contrast, are difficult to observe, difficult to define and difficult to quantify. Everyone likes hard factors better than soft factors. And that is quite understandable.

But, what about national culture? Let’s think about it. Have you ever tried to change how Germans define quality? How Americans fundamentally persuade? How Germans set up complex work processes? How Americans establish and deepen business relationships?

Wait, let’s step back a bit. Have you ever tried to explain how Germans define quality? How Americans fundamentally persuade? How Germans set up complex work processes? How Americans establish and deepen business relationships?

And it gets even more complex have you ever tried to manage the differences in how the two cultures do those things? Ever tried to integrate them? To get them to work together? That’s really hard stuff. We’re talking about national culture. Who we are. Where we come from. How we think. How we work.

Culture is our self-understanding, our self-definition, it is deeply-rooted, not easy to change. Folks, national culture is the hard. Hard in the deeper, truer sense of the word: complex, not quantifiable, difficult to describe difficult to manage, and very difficult to integrate. Folks, culture is not soft, culture is hard. In fact, culture is the hardest of the hard factors in the global economy.