How to develop a security culture, interview with Gert Jan Hofstede

Understanding the role of culture is crucial if we want to develop a security culture. Especially if we want to have a realistic chance of influencing behaviour, which is probably why we’re wanting to develop a security culture in the first place.

This is because culture is like a body of water. If you come at the water from high above at too high a velocity with a massive, weighty body of change, the body of water will act like a slab of concrete. 

You’ll get a very different response if you approach the water from a closer range, at a slower speed and with something more streamlined. You’ll glide through to the underside of the water and be able to explore the intricate inner-workings of the ecosystem contained within.

It’s that understanding which will guide your cyber security awareness, behaviour, and culture initiatives towards a greater chance of success. 

Culture and Security, Another Conversation with Gert Jan Hofstede

by Bruce Hallas | Re-thinking the Human Factor Podcast

Culture and Security, Another Conversation with Gert Jan Hofstede

Gert Jan Hofstede joins us for a second time on the show for episode 23 of the Re-Thinking the Human Factor Podcast.

Gert Jan is a population biologist and social scientist hailing from the Netherlands. His research and publications provide many with deeper understanding in the areas of cultural evolution, societal change, cultural stability, and how those forces interact with and have influence upon one another.

Gert is also known for his work in social simulation as well as for a number of books he has co-written with his father, Geert Hofstede.

“This is where culture is really at its most useful. To know that similar social results… to take a group where it should go, have to be reached by different ways by different routes in different cultures.”


  • Brexit, and drawing a comparison between the importance of understanding the cultural dimensions at play in Britain, and likewise, the cultural forces at play in one’s organisation.
  • The importance of recognising and acknowledging that we don’t even recognise our own cultural biases and the errors that lack of understanding of ourselves can cause.
  • The increased usage of the word ‘culture’, especially in job titles, as companies strive to develop a security culture.
  • How the meaning of the word ‘culture’ can differ from organisation to organisation. And how it depends on the broader cultural context of the society in which the organisation is situated. This is because the social and technical systems of an organisation are dovetailed in everyday behavioural dynamics
  • The need to be culturally aware. Along with being cognisant of cultural differences, we need to learn how to properly interpret those differences. We have to remember that our brains naturally make quick decisions about people and groups; who’s in and who’s out.
  • We ask the question “Has culture evolved to help us address our deep seated anxiety about the unknown?”
  • The status quo bias – that people stay rooted in doing what they normally do until it gets to the point where it’s a disaster.
  • You can’t change the culture of a society, but you can change the culture of an organisation. But, it’s very hard and takes time
  • Influencing an existing culture vs. creating a new security culture. And, whether or not one can or should develop a security culture that’s separate.
  • Values dimensions and using a whistleblower. This is an example of how values can influence societal responses to these kinds of people. And how the responses might differ depending on the values of the culture within which the whistleblower is situated.
  • Using a cultural framework to look at incidence reporting in which people report on themselves for their mistakes.
  • A helpful tip for those working in multicultural environments for working through the behavioural differences they experience.


“I think there’s nothing better than international experience with reflection.”


Culture and Security, Another Conversation with Gert Jan Hofstede

by Bruce Hallas | Re-thinking the Human Factor Podcast





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Bruce & The Re-thinking the Human Factor Podcast Team