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The relationship of vertical and horizontal

individualism and collectivism to intrapreneurship

and organizational commitment
Rebecca Abraham
Farquhar Center for Undergraduate Studies, Nova Southeastern University,
Fort Lauderdale, USA
Presents a study which
derives relationships between
the personality/cultural variables of vertical and horizontal individualism and collectivism, on the one hand, and
the organizational criteria of
intrapreneurship and organizational commitment on the
other. Suggests that horizontal individualism may explain
intrapreneurship jointly with a
supportive organizational
climate. Vertical collectivism
demonstrates a direct positive relationship with organizational commitment. Horizontal collectivism varies
jointly with work-group and
supervisor commitments in a
negative relationship with
organizational commitment,
indicating a perception of
conflict between work-group
and supervisor goals on the
one hand and organizational
goals on the other. Concludes
that, while the basis of the
vertical collectivists commitment seems unclear, horizontal collectivists base their
commitment on compliance
or rewards. Discusses theoretical and a few practical

Leadership & Organization

Development Journal
18/4 [1997] 179186
MCB University Press
[ISSN 0143-7739]

The individualism-collectivism construct

provides a conceptual framework within
which the behaviour of individuals from
different cultures may be explained. In
essence, individualism is based on the superordination of personal over group goals,
while collectivism is the emphasis of group
over personal goals through the derivation of
firm and explicit group boundaries (Kim,
In a landmark 40-nation study of employees
of a leading multinational, Hofstede (1980)
found varying levels of individualism and
collectivism, suggesting that not only are
they dimensions of organizational behaviour,
but their coexistence with powerful organizational cultures makes it entirely possible that
they are some of the driving forces of individual behaviour in organizations. Divergent
organizational practices included: the collectivist recognition of the importance of company training; emotional dependence on the
company; moral involvement with the company; job security; lack of managerial desire
to promote employee initiative; and the value
of group decisions over individual decisions.
On the other hand, there were: the individualist valuation of personal time; emotional
independence; calculative involvement with
the company; freedom and challenge at work;
managerial aspirations to leadership; autonomy and encouragement of subordinate initiative; and the support of individual decisions for individualists. Developing the constructs organizational behaviour link further, Hui et al. (1995) theorized that the desire
to preserve interpersonal harmony would
lead collectivists to accept unfair company
policies, autocratic leadership styles and
deviant coworker behaviour. This hypothesis
was supported empirically, with collectivist
employees reporting higher satisfaction with
work, pay, promotion, supervision and
coworker than individualists. Since co-operation within the group is essential for group
survival and prosperity, there is a positive
relationship between collectivism and cooperation. Peterson et al. (1995) found that for
21 countries, low individualism is associated
with high levels of role overload (being overwhelmed by work) and low levels of role

ambiguity (lack of necessary information for

task completion). The prevalence of hierarchy and adherence to rules in collectivist
organizations provides necessary information for task completion (reducing role ambiguity); however, the lack of freedom in establishing priorities for multiple tasks results in
employees being overwhelmed by work, leading to high role overload. In each of these
cases, individualism and collectivism act as
motivating forces for outward manifestations
of the behaviour of individuals in organizations.
The aim of this paper is to extend the study
of relationships of individualism and collectivism to organizational outcomes by relating
them to intrapreneurship and organizational
commitment. Intrapreneurship is organizational entrepreneurship, in which teams of
employees band to develop new technology
and produce new products. It appears to combine the individualistic trait of being able to
work independently to generate creative
ideas with the collectivist ability to collaborate in teams (in-groups) for new product
development. Organizational commitment
may be stronger among collectivists who
view the organization as an in-group with
whom they identify and to whom they owe
allegiance. Alternatively, allegiance to other
organizational groups including the workgroup or the supervisor may supersede collectivist loyalty to the organization.
The study is limited to a domestic US sample. This is done in the belief that single country studies should be the starting point for
such investigations, in order to observe more
closely the interaction of organizational
forces and the constructs effects. For
instance, given that our knowledge of the
relationship between individualism-collectivism and intrapreneurship in any culture is
limited, it is wise to study it first within the
USA for a small group of employees, for
whom moderating effects are few and easily
controlled, and then extend the study to other
countries using the moderating variables
that would inevitably appear because of
national differences.

[ 179 ]

Rebecca Abraham
The relationship of vertical
and horizontal individualism
and collectivism to
intrapreneurship and
organizational commitment
Leadership & Organization
Development Journal
18/4 [1997] 179186

Vertical and horizontal

individualism and collectivism
The individualism-collectivism construct
may be represented by a four-cell typology
consisting of vertical individualism, horizontal individualism, vertical collectivism and
horizontal collectivism. Authority-ranking or
acceptance of hierarchy is the basis of the
vertical-horizontal differentiation.

In its most extreme form, individualism is
synonymous with narcissism, which correlates positively with ego-ideal and
dominance. A more contemporary perspective is based on the core values of freedom,
independence, self-determination, personal
control, hedonism, utilitarianism, competition, competence, and uniqueness (Kim, 1994;
Triandis, 1988), coupled with separation from
in-groups of which family, religion and community are readily identifiable (Bellah et al.,
1985). To the extent that such in-group relationships are manifested through community
life and associations in an individualistic
society, any involvement in them is undertaken only if the self derives some benefit
from them (Triandis, 1988). At the organizational level, individual merit becomes the
sole criterion for appointment, promotion, or
While the above list of values characterizes
all individualists, a finer distinction may be
made on the basis of acceptance of authority.
Singelis et al. (1995) used Rokeachs values
analogy with political systems to explain this
dichotomy. Vertical individualism is dominant in market democracies including the
USA and France, while horizontal individualism primarily exists in democratically socialist countries like Sweden. The core individual belief in rewards according to merit is
qualified by the greater share apportioned to
those of higher rank in vertically individualist societies, with the desire for equal sharing
of resources in horizontally individualist
countries. In Singelis et al.s (1995) factor
analysis of individualism, vertical individualism loaded most heavily on the desire for
and enjoyment of competition at work, the
importance of winning, and annoyance at the
superior performance of coworkers. In a
factor analysis of this dimension using a
sample of American students, Triandis et al.
(1988) observed that the most important factor was self-reliance with competition.
The cornerstone of horizontal individualism is the existence of an autonomous self
equal in status with others (Singelis et al.,
1995). Daun et al. (1989) portray Swedish

[ 180 ]

society as a classic case of horizontal individualism. Paradoxically, the desire for autonomy rooted in freedom and independence
coexists with the desire for conformity, in
that deviation from reference group norms is
considered an aberration. No conflict results,
as affirmation by the group serves to reinforce an independent individual position. In a
survey of 11 nationalities, Swedes were found
to have the lowest desire for social status
achieved through deviation from group
norms, even if such deviation leads to success
(Daun, 1989).

Collectivism as conformity to group opinion
is the subordination of personal interests to
the attainment of in-group goals of co-operation, group welfare and in-group harmony
(Earley, 1989; Triandis et al., 1985). In-group
boundaries are defined with explicit and firm
out-group boundaries. In-group loyalties may
be restricted to family, close friends or the
organization, or to requiring the contribution
of expertise from individual employees
through the synergistic sharing of diverse
skills. In other words, intrapreneurship is the
domain of those who possess the directed
autonomy (Waterman, 1987) of individual
product champions and the ability to utilize
peer respect and negotiating power (Souder,
1987) to craft coalitions and build partnerships (Kanter, 1985). Such individuals value
independence, moderate risk-taking and the
ability to persuade others to support their
ideas, together with the need for achievement, goal orientation and internal locus of
control (Hornsby et al., 1993). With the exception of the ability to persuade others to support their ideas, the other traits listed above
are individualist. Additionally, empirical
support for a relationship between individualism and intrapreneurship was found by
Morris et al. (1994) via a curvilinear model.
The question then becomes, is the vertical or
horizontal individualist likely to be the more
successful intrapreneur? The horizontal
individualist, with values of equality-matching and lack of desire for prominence, may be
a more co-operative team member than the
vertical individualist. The competitiveness,
winning orientation and self-reliance of the
vertical individualist may impede team success. Intuitively, highly successful team-based
intrapreneurial ventures in computer hardware and software companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers and telecommunications
companies, rarely publicize the contributions
of individual team members; the result of
their efforts is characterized as a team

Rebecca Abraham
The relationship of vertical
and horizontal individualism
and collectivism to
intrapreneurship and
organizational commitment
Leadership & Organization
Development Journal
18/4 [1997] 179186

Horizontal individualism may explain

intrapreneurship in conjunction with a supportive organizational climate. Hornsby et al.
(1993) list a number of factors that are prerequisite to intrapreneurial success. They
management support, or encouragement of
innovativeness through the rapid adoption
of novel ideas, recognition of product champions and capital for experimental projects;
autonomy/work discretion, which refers to
autonomy in work design with no penalties
for experimentation;
rewards/reinforcement, wherein the reward
system is restructured to recognize true
achievement and the acceptance of increasingly challenging tasks;
time availability, with work allocated in
such a way that time constraints are flexible enough to permit persons to work with
others on long-term problem solving;
organizational boundaries, which represents rising above the narrow confines of
day-to-day task completion to focus on producing novel solutions to broad, fundamental problems.
Further, intrapreneurial activity has been
found to flourish at lower organizational
levels as this circumvents conflicts arising
from unfair competition of the project with
others (Souder, 1987). Consequently, the joint
effect of horizontal individualism, management support, and organizational level may
be associated with intrapreneurship.
H1: The interaction of horizontal individualism and management support at a low
organizational level is directly related to

Vertical collectivism and organizational

In this section, a relationship will be established between collectivism and commitment,
followed by a distinction between vertical and
horizontal collectivistm based on the source
of that commitment. In a general sense, if the
organization is viewed as the in-group, collectivists should exhibit greater commitment to
it. This proposition has its roots in the collectivist feeling that maintaining the groups
(organizations) wellbeing is the best guarantee for the individual (Ho, 1978). In a series of
laboratory studies, James and Cropanzano
(in press) discovered a direct, positive relationship between dispositional group loyalty
(DGL) and the effort individuals exerted on
behalf of the group. In a field study, higher
DGL among collectivists resulted in their
participation in activities that are manifestations of organizational commitment, including involvement in group-based

organizational activities, favourable attitudes

towards the organization and a desire to
promote the organizations welfare actively.
Kashima and Callan (1994) demonstrated that
the family is used as a metaphor for organizations in which the values of co-operation and
subordination to authority have been successfully integrated. Company familism or a
belief in the one-enterprise family formed
the basis of worker unification in the Japanese factory (Karsh, 1984). DeCotiis and Summers (1987) concluded that higher levels of
social involvement on the part of individuals
with their organization promotes organizational commitment (Buchanan, 1974; Lodahl,
Reichers (1985) viewed commitment to the
organization as distinct from commitment to
its constituent groups. Becker (1992) delineated commitment into commitment to the
organization, to top management, to immediate supervisors and to work-groups. As vertical and horizontal collectivists may be jointly
or severally committed to each of these
groups, it is necessary to separate the commitment of the individual to the organization
from commitment to each group. The vertical
collectivist is likely to have strong allegiance
to the organization as a separate entity. Since
the organization dominates the other groups,
affiliation to it will transcend all other affiliations. As authority-ranking, acceptance of
hierarchy and status are the distinguishing
features of vertical collectivism, the vertical
collectivist will find greater affinity with the
organization as opposed to the other groups.
The characteristic of vertical collectivism
that is willing to sacrifice the self for the collective and place duty before pleasure, including performing duties that are distasteful,
goes beyond attitudinal commitment and is
analogous to organizational citizenship. Citizenship, or extra-role behaviour, emerges
from an organizational need for members to
rise beyond the call of duty for the benefit of
the organization (Katz, 1964; Mowday et al.,
1979). Examples include helping co-workers
who fall behind, keeping a work area clean,
accepting temporary assignments without
complaint, volunteering for unassigned tasks
and providing suggestions to improve the
firm (Smith et al., 1983). Since organizational
citizenship is directed towards the furtherance of organizational over work-group,
supervisor or top management goals, the
vertical collectivists identification with
these goals suggests commitment to the organization over the other entities.
H2: Vertical collectivism is directly related to
organizational commitment.

[ 181 ]

Rebecca Abraham
The relationship of vertical
and horizontal individualism
and collectivism to
intrapreneurship and
organizational commitment
Leadership & Organization
Development Journal
18/4 [1997] 179186

Horizontal collectivism and organizational

Horizontal collectivists believe in subordination to a homogeneous group, co-operation,
maintaining the wellbeing of coworkers and
preserving harmony. Group homogeneity is
likely to occur with the work-group where
supervisory, organizational and top management groups are sufficiently different to
disqualify them as in-groups. Similarly, it is
unlikely that co-operation and the maintenance of harmony is to be found in any group
other than the one with which the horizontal
collectivist has the closest association, i.e. the
work-group. Conceptually, it seems unlikely
that horizontal collectivists will have any
direct allegiance to either the organization or
top management. The organization and top
management may be perceived as abstractions, simply because of the psychological
distance between them and the individual.
Any organizational commitment may be a
function of the horizontal collectivists commitment to the work-group and the supervisor. In other words, since some of the variance in organizational commitment may be
explained by commitment to the work-group,
horizontal collectivism may interact with
work-group commitment to increase organizational commitment. The work-group may
represent the organization to the horizontal
collectivist; any organizational commitment
on the part of these individuals may be
explained by their commitment to the workgroup.
H3: Horizontal collectivism interacts with
work-group commitments to explain
organizational commitment.

The sample consisted of employees of midsized manufacturing and service firms in the
medical technology, food, computer and
entertainment industries based in South
Florida. Administrators at each firm were
contacted to distribute the surveys to employees. Of the 246 questionnaires distributed, 106
were returned, for a response rate of 43 per
cent. The mean age of the respondents was
30.57 years (standard deviation 7.8). Of the 50
men and 56 women surveyed, 31 were firstline supervisory managers and 75 were technicians.

Control variables
To control for interrater variability resulting
from demographics, age, gender, race, religion, experience and tenure were specified as
control variables. Race (dichotomized into

[ 182 ]

white and all others) included 94 white

respondents and 12 for all other groups. Religious affiliation (dichotomized into religious
affiliation and no religious affiliation)
showed 39 respondents with some form of
religious affiliation and 67 with none. Experience in the industry averaged 7.71 years (sd
6.35) with a mean tenure of 2.9 years (sd 3.35)
with current employers.

Main variables
The main variables were identified as follows:
Vertical and horizontal individualism and
collectivism. Singelis et al.s (1995) 32-item,
nine-point, Likert-type scale with four
eight-item subscales for each dimension
was employed. Their Cronbach alpha reliability coefficients of 0.75, 0.60, 0.65 and 0.69
for the vertical individualism, horizontal
individualism, vertical collectivism and
horizontal collectivism sub-scales respectively are comparable to the coefficients
used in this study of 0.61, 0.81, 0.72 and 0.76.
Singelis et al. (1995) established construct
validity through superior fit for a fourfactor model over single and two-factor
models, and convergent validity by significant positive correlations with Singelis
(1994) self-construal scale and the Sinha and
Verma (1994) scales.
Intrapreneurship. Intrapreneurship was
measured by Covin and Slevins (1989) nineitem, seven-point strategic posture scale.
The Cronbach alpha of 0.84 in the present
study indicated high reliability. Covin and
Slevin (1989) assessed construct validity
through factor analysis in which all items
loaded above 0.6 on a single factor. Management support for intrapreneurship was a
six-item, two-point measure to determine
the existence of managerial support, autonomy in project selection, rewards for innovation, time availability to pursue special
projects and the existence of a skunkworks.
Organizational level. Organizational level
was dichotomized into 1 = managers and 2
= technicians for all regressions.
Organizational commitment. Organizational commitment was measured by Porter
et al.s (1974) organizational commitment
questionnaire (OCQ). The Cronbach alpha
of 0.94 of this study may be likened to those
of 0.82 to 0.93 reported in earlier studies
(Ivancevich, 1979; Jermier and Berkes, 1979;
Kerr and Jermier, 1978). Convergent validity has been established through significant
positive associations with work-oriented
interests (Dubin, 1956) along with the ability to predict leaving behaviour. Discriminant validity was observed through correlations with job involvement (Lodahl and
Kejner, 1965), job descriptive index

Rebecca Abraham
The relationship of vertical
and horizontal individualism
and collectivism to
intrapreneurship and
organizational commitment
Leadership & Organization
Development Journal
18/4 [1997] 179186

subscales (Mowday et al., 1979), job satisfaction (Jermier and Berkes, 1979), need for
achievement and need for autonomy (Steers
and Braunstein, 1976). Beckers (1992) threeitem, seven-point scale was used to evaluate
commitment to the areas of focus. Becker
(1992) established discriminant validity for
these by observing that they account for
unique variance in satisfaction, intent to
quit, and prosocial organizational behaviours.

Two moderated hierarchical regressions
were performed to test the hypotheses. For
each regression, order of entry was specified
by blocks of variables with control variables
at the first level, main variables at the second
level, two-way interactions at the third level
and three-way interactions at the fourth level.

H1 was tested by the regression of intrapreneurship on horizontal individualism (see
Table I). Both linear and cubic models were
specified. The cubic model was included to
account for a curvilinear relationship
between individualism and intrapreneurship
observed in the Morris et al. (1994) study. H1
was supported with the three-way interaction
between high levels of horizontal individualism and support and organizational level
accounting for the largest proportion of the
variance, i.e. a significant 22 per cent in the
linear model (t = 4.51, p < 0.001) and 15 per
cent (t = 4.32, p < 0.001) in the cubic model.
To explore this finding further, the sample
was split according to both organizational
level (managers versus technicians) and
support (high versus low). For the high-support technicians group, there was a significant positive relationship between horizontal
individualism and intrapreneurship (t =
32.48, p < 0.001); for all other groups, the relationship was weakly negative. In other words,
the personality of the horizontal individualist
located at a low organizational level in a supportive environment promotes intrapreneurship.
H2 was supported in the second regression
with vertical collectivism accounting for 17
per cent of the variance in organizational
commitment (t = 3.88 to 3.92, p < 0.001) (see
Table II).
H3 was partially supported, with the threeway interactions between horizontal collectivism and work-group and supervisor commitments showing significant negative relationships with organizational commitment.
As H3 had predicted that the direction of the

Table I
Results of hierarchical regression of intrapreneurship on horizontal individualism
R2 at Step 1
R2 at Step 1
Horizontal individualism (HI)
Horizontal individualism (HI2)
Horizontal individualism (HI3)
Vertical individualism (VI)
Support (S)
Organizational level (OL)
R2 at Step 2
R2 at Step 2
R2 at Step 3
R2 at Step 3
R2 at Step 4
R2 at Step 4

Model 1

Model 2


1.59** 0.78**
0.24*** 0.26**
1.76*** 0.98***
0.45*** 0.40***

Note: * p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001

horizontal collectivism-organizational commitment would be positive, this result represents a reversal of the hypothesized direction.
Subgroup analysis confirmed the direction of
the result with the high organizational levelhigh workgroup commitment group showing
a significant negative horizontal collectivismorganizational commitment relationship (t =
5.3,1, p < 0.05). Horizontal collectivists at
high organizational levels who are strongly
attached to their work-groups are less committed to the organization. At low organization levels, work-group commitment has no
influence on the horizontal collectivismorganizational commitment relationship;
horizontal collectivists who are both strongly
and weakly attached to their work-groups are
committed to the organization. This finding
may be extended to supervisory commitment,
in which the high work-group commitmenthigh supervisor commitment group showed a
significant negative relationship with organizational commitment (t = 0.04, p < 0.05).
Horizontal collectivists who are strongly
attached to both their supervisors and their
work-groups are less committed to the organization.

[ 183 ]

Rebecca Abraham
The relationship of vertical
and horizontal individualism
and collectivism to
intrapreneurship and
organizational commitment
Leadership & Organization
Development Journal
18/4 [1997] 179186

Table II
Regression of organizational commitment on
vertical collectivism
R2 at Step 1
R2 at Step 1
Vertical collectivism (VC)
Horizontal collectivism (HC)
Organizational level (OL)
Workgroup commitment (WC)
Supervisor commitment (SC)
Top management commitment (TM)
R2 at Step 2
R2 at Step 2
R2 at Step 3
R2 at Step 3


Note: * p < 0.05, ** p < 0.0001.

Significant interactions reported

It may appear surprising that all four dimensions of the construct were found in American organizations given that the society is
considered to be vertically individualist. In
accordance with Singelis et al. (1995), since
societies are predominantly vertically or
horizontally individualist or collectivist, and
the extent to which they are depends on the
situation, it is conceivable that dimensions
other than vertical individualism are present. Further, as organizations have a collectivizing influence manifested by the need for
compliance with rules, procedures and acceptance of the authority of superiors, individuals may be predisposed towards collectivism
in their role as employees as opposed to their
social and personal roles.

Robustness of the vertical/horizontal

The current vertical and horizontal conceptualization may be the most reliable and valid
measure of individualism and collectivism to
date, as evidenced by reliabilities above the
threshold of 0.70 for all subscales with the
exception of vertical individualism. Numerous earlier measures have reported low reliabilities in the 0.3 to 0.45 range (Singelis et al.,
1995). Consequently, it behoves authors of
earlier individualism collectivism
organizational criteria studies to incorporate

[ 184 ]

this distinction in a replication of their original studies, with a view to improving the
explanatory power of the resulting models.
This study also provides discriminant
validity for both vertical collectivism and
horizontal individualism. Vertical collectivism explained much more of the variance
in organizational commitment than did horizontal collectivism, as did horizontal individualism over vertical individualism for
intrapreneurship. This studys finding does
not support Singelis et al.s (1995) suggestion
of collapsing vertical and horizontal collectivism into a single construct. In terms of
their relationship to organizational commitment these two dimensions are different and
should be measured as distinct entities.

Horizontal individualism and

This studys finding of a relationship between
horizontal individualism and intrapreneurship extends Morris et al.s (1994) finding of
such a relationship between individualism
and intrapreneurship for US samples. However, given this studys finding of 22 per cent
of the variance in intrapreneurship being
explained by horizontal individualism, support and organizational level, versus only 6
per cent for horizontal individualism alone,
personality alone explains only a modest
amount of intrapreneurship; its effects are
highly dependent on situational factors in a
contingency framework (in this case, support
and organizational level). Future research
should investigate the facets of a supportive
work environment that have the strongest
interactions with horizontal individualism to
promote intrapreneurship. The KEYS instrument (Amabile et al., 1996) as a thoroughly
validated measure of work environments may
be employed in such an investigation.

Collectivism and organizational

The strong vertical collectivism-organizational commitment relationship supports the
thesis of this paper that the desire for selfsacrifice for the group as well as a sense of
responsibility for the group leads certain
individuals to go above and beyond the call of
duty for the organization. While at first
glance such individuals may appear to be
ideal employees, at which level would they be
the most successful? The authoritarian element in this personality could lead to paternalism and nepotism. A study relating the
vertical collectivism dimension to leadership
would be useful. In the event of downsizing,
we may conjecture that vertical collectivists
may experience greater stress and
disillusionment in the form of role ambiguity
and dissatisfaction, because of their stronger
organizational commitment. In this vein,

Rebecca Abraham
The relationship of vertical
and horizontal individualism
and collectivism to
intrapreneurship and
organizational commitment
Leadership & Organization
Development Journal
18/4 [1997] 179186

stress management strategies and outplacement programmes may have to be directed

towards vertical collectivists.
The horizontal collectivism-organizational
commitment relationship is intriguing. In
support of Reichers (1986), conflicting goals
between the work-group and supervisor on
the one hand and the organization on the
other hand, lead horizontal collectivists who
are highly committed to both workgroup and
supervisor to be less committed to the organization. The organization is not an abstraction; it is an adversary. This conclusion is
highly dependent on the situation; it is likely
to vary with industry, market conditions and
organizational climate. Replications of this
study across industry in organizational climates with both supportive and adversarial
organization work-group/supervisor relationships are warranted.
How should organizations promote workgroup and supervisor commitment among
horizontal collectivists without diminishing
organizational commitment? In a supplementary analysis, it was found that rewards
(termed compliance in the OReilly and Chatman (1986) definition of bases of commitment)
act as the basis of commitment for horizontal
collectivists. Horizontal collectivists who
exhibit high levels of compliance (desire for
rewards) are committed to the organization;
conversely, those with low levels of compliance are less committed. The judicious dispensation of rewards may be used to stimulate acts of citizenship and organizational
attachment among horizontal collectivists.
In summary, personality in conjunction
with situational variables acts as a predictor
of organizational criteria. Future research
should extend this study to investigations of
the relationship between the individualismcollectivism construct and other organizational criteria.

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