Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Power Distance

An overwhelming majority of the plane accidents in the world are caused by miscommunications among the flight crew, in particular between pilot and co-pilot. In this sort of work environment a subordinate needs to feel comfortable with bringing up problems and questioning authority. Power Distance measures how much the less powerful members of organizations feel about unequal distributions of power. This is a concept created by Dutch sociologist Geert Hofstede.

In cultures with low power distances, like most Western democratic civilizations (Australia, the US, Denmark), people expect and accept power relations that are more consultative. In these cultures subordinates expect to be able to contribute and think for themselves, plane accidents occur less often because critical information flows more easily. In such cultures like Korea or Malaysia (with high Power Distance) where subordinates are expected to do what they are told without questioning authority, plane accidents are much higher. Korean airlines had such a bad reputation that for a while some countries, like Canada, didn't even allow them in their air space.

Check out this link of Korean Air accidents: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Air_incidents_and_accidents.

They have solved this problem by training their crews to communicate better. Notice that the incidents stopped in the late 90's. So you have plans to visit Korea soon, like I do, it is now safe to travel there via a Korean Airline.

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