Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Eat Humble Pie: By Swallowing Pride we Enable Innovation

My extreme risk taking, although informed, is a little fast and furious for my Greater Asia region business partners. We must continually be aware of our cultural similarities and also our cultural differences.

If you read my Blog regarding El Chupacabra invading Asia on Wednesday, April 12, 2006 you will see a classic example of my personal decision in choosing to enable innovation by swallowing my pride. Pride lied and told me to get out of Dodge; however, the right business decision is a hard call sometimes, so I stuck it out. I still have one close casualty (my better half)! My injured party is due to my inability to build a relationship with the Malaysian course owner. Trust comes first, prior to my using my network of family, friends, and business acquaintances to move mountains. My strategy was a tad faulty.

Eating humble pie, I met with my Malaysian counterpart via a telephonic bridge line (phone call) communication. We discussed a few options, shared some history of the benefits (win-win), and came to an agreement to proceed. Of course, there are still some negotiations to iron out and some HR legal discussions to take place, but these risks are low.

In dealing with American business partners it seems a natural progression for our international counterparts to embrace a similar style of work communication (the spirit of El Chupacabra). Americans are known for a “My Way or the Highway,” way of doing business. We seem to be a little short sighted on adopting another cultures way and thus often lose in international negotiations.

Negotiations in the Greater Asia region will include the exchanging of gifts. For one example, what is the gift giving policy at any given American business? I think you will find it is across the board pretty low. Reasons for low gift exchange includes, ethics training and the perceptions your company is being bought off in negotiations. The question I think about in regards to gift exchange is: How can you have a single policy that crosses many cultures effectively?

Culturally, the Japanese are the biggest gift exchangers and the exchange is a very important part of a relationship. Gift giving is a ceremony. The Chinese, the Malaysians and the rest of the Greater Asia region follow suite on gifts. By not embracing a simple gesture of thoughtful gift giving we make relationship building more difficult. Cheap gifts are insulting (lack of respect). Never give gifts with company logos (disrespect).

There is always room to challenge the status quo and design approved exceptions to policy, procedure and we have always done it this way syndrome. Get real and make good business decisions by developing your knowledge and skills in intercultural relations. The future is more global than today!

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