An interesting read by by Kai Hammerich and Richard Lewis, Fish Can’t See Water: How National Cultures Can Make or Break Your Corporate Strategy (Wiley; 2013) featured in The Economist adds a new dimension the classical management theory, especially in the economy that is continuously shifting from manufacturing to predominantly service industry.
The authors argue that the snapshot of our civilisation emulates three “global archetypes”: linear-active, multi-active and reactive.
“Linear-active culture stresses timekeeping and getting-to-the-point and dominates in North America and northern Europe. Multi-active stresses emotion and sociability and dominates in southern Europe and Latin America. Reactive stresses “face” and harmony and dominates in Asia. But different countries stand in different positions on these various continuums: India is halfway between reactive and multi-active and Canada halfway between linear-active and reactive” (The Economist Business Book Quarterly).
One of very clear analogies used to illustrate their views is the game of soccer. The rules are shared and the challenges are not unique to individual teams. Yet the cultural differences influence the strategy of the game and make an impact on the overall winning score. Occasionally , more successfully globalized companies “can sometimes turn more ethno- centric as they become more successful. They might send their managers to spend time abroad. They might appoint a few foreigners to the board. But they become more proudly nationalistic as they put on a multicultural veneer. And they turn into stereotypes if they hit a rough patch.”
In other words, the biggest challenge of contemporary globalized business strategy could be “the inability of most companies to understand the world view and aspirations of partners and competitors.”
Keep on reading : Fish Can’t See Water: How National Cultures Can Make or Break Your Corporate Strategy (Wiley; 297 pages; $30 from Amazon.ca)
- A Model to Explain Cultures across the World (neatorama.com)
- What the World Would Look Like if Countries Were as Big as Online Populations (theatlantic.com)