Square Peg In A Round Hole; PDI Mismatch?

A scene in an episode of the Magnum P. I. television series from 30 years ago. After conflict and clashes with Higgins over who will take charge and how to solve their shipwreck on an island in a naval target range with bombardment imminent, laid-back Magnum apologizes to up-tight Higgins for being “insubordinate.” Higgins accepts, but you know it is in each character to continue as a constant irritation to the other because of their different attitudes toward hierarchy and presumed authority.

Insubordinate dog with a bikini top

Power Distance Index

“So a high PDI country is one where people prefer, or are used to having a large power distance between a teacher (say) and the students. These countries are Malaysia (104), China (80), Indonesia (78) and the Phillipines (94). And so the norm in such countries is for leaders to be highly respected, for people not to ask embarrasing questions, for students and subordinates to listen.

However low PDI countries are those which prefer, or are used to having a small power distance between the boss and the workers. These countries are Australia (36), New Zealand (22), Ireland (28) and the Austria (11). The norm here is for leaders to be accessible, to be at the same level as their subordinates, to be open to challenge and suggestions.

This is all about expectations, about what people are used to, what they have had modelled for them again and again during their formative years – and which they then take with them into their working life. And of course individuals will be different, but on the whole this gives you an insight into some of the conflict that can happen…

Conflicts can happen when people who are born overseas (say Hong Kong with a PDI of 68, or Malaysia with a PDI of 104), starts to interact with those who are born or raised in Australia (with a PDI of 36). After a short while, those who are used to a higher PDI will find those who are used to a lower PDI to be disrespectful, disobedient, and to take an overy casual and relaxed approach to important things. However those who are used to a lower PDI will find those who are used to a higher PDI to be controlling, talking down to them, distant, making decisions for them without really consulting them.”

From http://andrewhong.net/2008/11/10/power-distance-index/


This site has a table of PDI and other indices by country:


Note that PDI is a measure that can apply to individuals or groups as well as countries.

Can a musher be a high PDI person?

For that attitude to be sustainable in this environment, sled dogs would have to be consistently low PDI; there is a sharp limit to that. Brings to mind the French equivalent of the English expression “bull in a china shop,” that is, “un chien dans un jeu de boules.” A dog at a lawn bowling match.

More than once in the Thin Man movies the dog Asta runs off with clues or evidence.

The inspiration for this post came from a chapter in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, titled The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes.


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