Belbin and Culture

Belbin Team Role theory is taught worldwide.

As an international ‘language’ for recognising and codifying behaviour, Team Roles are designed to break down cultural barriers and promote mutual understanding. The Belbin inventories and reports have been translated into eighteen languages and our Belbin representatives operate in more than thirty countries.

Diversity can influence a business on many levels and ultimately confers competitive advantage.

McKinsey’s 2015 research discovered ‘a virtuous cycle of increasing returns’, in which culturally-diverse organizations are better able to win and retain talent, improve customer relations and employee engagement, and benefit from better decision-making. As a result, they are 35% more likely to have financial returns above national averages for their respective industries.

Harvard Business Review explains how working with others with different opinions, thoughts, beliefs, norms, customs, values, trends, and traditions can challenge ‘stale ways of thinking’ and sharpen individual performance. Indeed, just as behavioural diversity can bring success (through the deployment of diverse Belbin Team Role behaviours), cultural diversity can help a team to remain objective, examine biases and engage in more accurate group thinking.

With the importance of diversity at the heart of Belbin’s message, and given our global reach and use in multinational organizations, we wanted to explore the relevance and use of Belbin in different cultural contexts, by analysing differences between Team Role distributions in different countries.

We analysed Belbin data gathered between 2012 and 2017, consisting of 190,319 individuals in 26 countries.

We found that there were some variations between countries according to language spoken and geographical area, but there was no over-arching pattern which suggested bias. The differences we did find have a minimal effect on how we derive Team Roles, because the variability is not active at the level at which we draw Team Role inference. Looking at Team Role distributions, we also discovered that Team Role opposites are negatively correlated when combining all data.

How we address cultural difference in our reports

We’re going to continue working to an ‘international’ norm base to derive Team Role reports (in other words, comparing each person to an individual data sample), and to make this the default for practical purposes, so that multinational organizations can still benefit from consistency.

We aim to update our norm base regularly to ensure that it reflects multicultural working as best it can. In addition to this, we hope to offer alternative norm bases where we have sufficient data to do so, and this will be a focus of our future development work here at Belbin.

What Next?

If you would like a copy of our research, please email


  • As at the time of publication, the Belbin Self-Perception inventory is commercially available in: Chinese (simplified), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.
  • ‘Why diversity matters’, McKinsey & Co., January 2015:
  • ‘Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter’, November 2016:
  • For a full discussion of the ipsative and non-ipsative properties of the Belbin Self-Perception Inventory (SPI), please see: ‘The “Belbin” team role inventory: reinterpreting reliability estimates’, Stephen Swailes and Tim McIntyre-Bhatty, Journal of Managerial Psychology, February 2002.
 Written by the Belbin Team and Victoria Bird
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