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The Lewis Culture Model


Explanations > Culture > Lewis Culture Model

Linear-actives | Multi-actives | Reactives | So What



Richard Lewis is a linguist who speaks ten languages and who has journeyed far. In his travels he has found he can segment national cultures into three approximate categories (although he also warns of stereotyping).


These are logical thinkers who carefully plan and manage their actions. They do things one at a time, according to schedule, and so are very accurate and efficient in their work. They like working with others who focus on the task and who appreciate structure and reason. They can annoy the other types by their focus on the task and lack of consideration for relationships.


Germany, Switzerland


These are more energetic people who prioritize their work based on feeling as much as thought. They switch from task to task based on a combination of apparent urgency and whatever seems more interesting. They are more social than linear-actives and consider managing relationships as an essential part of the job. When they disagree they can be loud and emotional, but will quickly forget this as agreement is reached.


Italy, Latin America


Reactives are also interested in relationships, but are cooler than multi-actives, valuing courtesy and consideration. They listen carefully and think hard about what the other person is saying rather than just diving in with their views. They tend to think widely, seeking principles by which they can work rather than fixed plans or vague intentions. They seek harmony and will step back and start again if things are not working well. While not confrontational, they are also persistent and will work with others until they are happy with plans and actions.


Finland, Japan


The model is often shown as a triangle, with countries ranged along lines between two vertices. There seems to be no countries which combine all three dimensions.

Linear-actives seem to inhabit cooler countries, while the hotter climate where more multi-actives are found is reflected in their greater emotional activation. The USA and UK are mostly linear-active. Canada lies between linear-active and reactive. Australia lies between linear-active and multi-active. European countries mostly range between linear-active and multi-active, with Northern Europeans tending to be mostly linear-active, but with reactive leanings.


  Linear-active Multi-active Reactive
Focus Results Relationship Harmony
Talks Half Most Little
Tasks Sequential Parallel Responsive
Plans Stepwise Outline Principles
Politeness Mostly Sometimes Always
Challenge Logical Emotional Indirect
Emotion Ignored Expressed Suppressed
Communication Written Verbal Face-to-face
Body language Restrained Open Subtle

So what?

Use this as another lens by which to understand people from different cultures. Try responding to them in similar ways and if this helps the relationship, the work or both, then continue to lean on this model.

See also

Hofstede's cultural factors, Trompenaars' and Hampden-Turner's cultural factors


Lewis, R. (1996). When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures, Nicholas Brealey


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