Operationalizing culture is “one of the most fundamental issues cross-cultural researchers face” (Matsumoto & Jones, 2009, p. 324), as stated in The Handbook of Social Research Ethics. Inconsiderate research design could “ignore the large degree of individual differences that exist in human behavior” (p. 325) and eventually “vindicate” cultural stereotypes the researchers mean to avoid.

In the field of cross-cultural design, a big challenge is how to inform and guide the design process with a sophisticated understanding of culture. This design challenge is a contextualized problem of operationalizing culture in practice. Insensitive design recommendations could end up strengthening the cultural essentialism designers want to leave behind in this increasingly globalized world. For example, designers should be more careful when recommending an online event scheduling system for American users that includes more granular and precise time units (e.g., options at 15 minute precision level) than what is recommended for Mexican users. The recommendation makes sense as American culture is considered monochronic, which prefers punctuality for meetings, while Mexican culture is not. However, what if some individual Mexican users might want to take more proactive actions to counteract their polychromic cultural influence for intercultural collaboration?

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