How to Make Successful Connections in the New Global Era

How to Make a Successful Culture Crossing 

We live in an increasingly connected world. That much we all know. As a regular globetrotter, I know how easy it is to cross borders.

But it’s not always so easy to understand each other.

Often I see how a phrase in one language doesn’t translate to another. Try speaking on stage and using a gesture that is common in one country and see how it offends an audience in another. Technology and travel have moved faster than our understanding of cultural differences.

That’s why I loved reading strategic management consultant Michael Landers new book Culture Crossing: Discover the Key to Making Successful Connections in the new Global Era. It’s an extraordinary look into our differences. Michael provides insights into how we can create more effective interactions and thus achieve greater success in working with each other. I talked with him about his extensive work.

 

Leadership Tip: Be mindful of your own cultural programming when working with others.

 

Avoid a Culture Crash

What’s a culture crash?

Every time people from different cultures interact, a culture crossing occurs. When you get a culture connection, things go well, and the impact you have on each other matches your intentions. But there can also be a culture crash,  a phenomenon that occurs when someone from one culture unintentionally confuses, frustrates, or offends a person from another culture. Typically when these occur, people’s intentions are not in alignment with the impact they may be having on each other.

 

Would you share a high-profile example or two?  Some more recent culture crashes that come to mind include when Microsoft founder Bill Gates insulted the South Korean president by keeping one hand in his pocket while shaking her hand, a sign of disprespect in South Korea, or  when LeBron James inadvertently disrespected Princess Kate (and much of the U.K.) by slinging his arm around her for a photo op.

 

Recognize Your Own Cultural Programming

Can you share a few simple culture crash–minimizing techniques?

There is a three-step method that can apply in many situations that helps people to take some of the “cultural reflex” out of the equation and set themselves up for success.  It’s the same method I share with all my clients:

  1. Recognize your own cultural programming.
  2. Open your mind to other ways of perceiving or approaching a situation.
  3. Identify opportunities to adapt your response to optimize results.

The methodology is widely applicable, whether the goal is to increase sales, build strategic partnerships lead people/teams, or maximize the potential of a diverse customer base.   The more you search through your cultural baggage and recognize your own cultural programming (Step 1), the easier it will become to put the next two steps into action. Getting to the bottom of your bag won’t happen overnight. I’ve been at it for several decades, and I still regularly discover new aspects of my cultural programming.

 

Acknowledge You’re in the Dark

Why You May Need A Wicked Strategy

 

What do you do if you face a problem so complex that it can only be described as wicked?

Is it possible to confound competitors?

 

How Companies Conquer Complexity and Confound Competitors

John Camilius, author of Wicked Strategies: How Companies Conquer Complexity and Confound Competitors outlines a number of ways that managers can handle the most difficult problems. Camilius is the Donald R. Beall Professor of Strategic Management at the University of Pittsburgh.

 

“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” -Winston Churchill

 

For those who don’t know your work, what is a wicked problem?

In the early seventies, Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, two professors of design and urban planning, recognized that there are certain problems that are not amenable to resolution by traditional, accepted problem-solving techniques. They evocatively labeled these problems as “wicked” and identified ten distinguishing characteristics. Ten characteristics are difficult to remember, and over the years, I have whittled them down to just five.  If a problem displays these five criteria, you can be pretty sure you are facing a wicked problem.Wicked Strategies John C. Camillus

The first characteristic is deceptively simple and requires some thought:  Is the problem one that is substantially without precedent, something that you have not encountered before?

Second, are there multiple significant stakeholders with conflicting values and priorities? You need to go beyond the traditional big three stakeholders—employees, customers and shareholders.  Non-government organizations, multiple layers of government, creditors, communities in which you are located, political parties in power and out of power are all becoming more significant and demanding.

Third, are there several causes and are they interactive and tangled?  For instance, the future of social media is driven by a complex brew of technology advancements in hardware and apps, changing demographics, evolving social and cultural mores, government regulations, privacy expectations, geopolitical developments, educational practices, disposable income, and economic and social mobility.

 

“If we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re going.” -Irwin Corey

 

Fourth, there is no sure way of knowing you have the right answer. Another way of phrasing this is that there is no stopping rule—you can continue searching indefinitely for a “better” answer.

Fifth, the understanding of what the “problem” is changes depending on the “solution” being considered.  In other words, the problem and the solution are interactive. For instance, entry into a country that does not permit foreign multi-brand retailers might be accomplished by creating a cash-and-carry model for small retailers or by being a minority partner with a local retailer or by entering an entirely new business employing a distinctive competency such as logistics. Each of these responses to the wicked problem of accessing the huge purchasing power of emerging economies’ populations creates a wholly different set of issues.

A note of warning may be in order. In the public policy arena, the wickedness of problems is hard to overlook. Problems such as immigration policy, violence against women, religious fundamentalism, and public education are overtly wicked. In the business world, however, the thing about wicked problems is that though they can show up anywhere, they are likely to be perceived as “tame” problems.

Wicked problems are certainly more common than most managers realize. Not recognizing that they were facing wicked problems, I believe, led to the dissolution of Westinghouse, the demise of Polaroid, and the decline of Kodak, RadioShack and Atari. Though wicked problems can occur anywhere, it is more likely than not that you will encounter wicked problems if you are a public company, operate globally, and are in a technology-driven business.

 

“Every threat to the status quo is an opportunity in disguise.” -Jay Samit

 

3 Megaforces Challenging Business

You talk about 3 megaforces that are challenging business. How do these trends help create wicked problems?

While there are a variety of forces and environmental factors that can create wicked problems, over the years I’ve identified three forces that are widely experienced which, in concert, are a major source of wicked problems. They are: the inevitability of globalization, the imperative of innovation, and the importance of shared value. The first two forces are well understood. Shared value, which has been brought to the attention of the managerial world by Michael Porter, is the notion that social benefit and economic value are synergistic. It also raises the issue of the appropriate sharing of value across diverse stakeholders.

The interactions of these three forces create strategic challenges that combine to create wicked problems. For instance, innovating to meet the needs of unserved, low-income customers across the world results—as the guru of disruptive innovation Clayton Christensen has affirmed—in disruptive technologies that can upend industries. Innovation also creates changes that differentially impact stakeholders, creating the likelihood of conflict between stakeholders as the organization transforms. The extreme complexity and uncertainty embodied in the global economy coupled with the conflicting priorities of multiple stakeholders creates unknowable futures. This roiling cauldron of disruptive technologies, conflicted stakeholders and unknowable futures is what spawns wicked problems.

I like to illustrate the interaction of these forces in a Venn diagram.

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Three Mega-Forces and their Strategic Challenge

These three forces can interact to create wicked problems in any context. Of course, other environmental forces can also breed wicked problems, but I have chosen to focus on these three because they are so ubiquitous and powerful.

I believe there are business contexts or “industries” that will be breeding grounds for wicked problems. Health, software, information technology, fossil fuels, water, automobiles, and public transportation are prime examples. Technological innovation, drastically changing regulations, geopolitical developments, and changing notions of social responsibility make these industries particularly prone to encountering wicked problems that demand that firms develop and deploy wicked strategies. 

 

“The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.” -William Ellery Channing

 

How to Deal With Uncertainty

12 Ways Brands Get Off Track

12 Sins of Branding

Companies, like people, can go off track. A simple error compounds. The wrong attitude takes root. A poorly designed strategy is implemented. Perhaps the focus is just a bit off, sending everything off course. It happens.

What do you do if you are off track? How do you recognize the signs?

There are two branding experts that I turn to when it comes to branding and revitalizing brands: Larry Light and Joan Kiddon. They not only have the experience, but their advice is my favorite kind: practical and actionable. I’m not one for studying theories that I can’t immediately use.

I recently spoke with the authors about the troubling behaviors and attitudes that cause companies to mess up their brand. They have identified 12 ways that brands go awry. Their updated book on branding, Six Rules of Brand Revitalization, is a must-read on the subject.

 

“Arrogance leads to complacency which destroys innovation and leaves you out of date.”

 

The Arrogance of Success

How do you pull a culture out of arrogance, especially if they don’t realize it?

Often it takes a sense of urgency, a perception of an impending crisis. Change is difficult. An arrogant culture resists change until it seems that there is no option. Change or die. Dramatize the need for change. The most dangerous disease is complacency. Arrogance can lead to complacency. Complacency can keep your eyes closed to innovation and leave you out of date with your customers. The common expression, “Go back to basics,” is often used to defend resisting change. Going backwards will not guide marketers how to best go forward.

 

“Culture change is led from the top. The leader sets the tone.”

 

Culture change is led from the top. The leader sets the tone. Sometimes a leadership change is necessary. This is what happened at McDonald’s in 2002. The new leadership immediately dramatized the need for change. Jim Cantalupo, the new CEO, created a sense of urgency.

We recommend the four steps of Breaking the LOCK on Brand Troubles: Fix Leadership; then leadership can fix the Organization alignment. Cultural change is an imperative. Knowledge is a powerful force. Become a learning culture…

 

12 Branding Sins

1: The arrogance of success

2: The comfort of complacency

3: The building of organizational barriers and bureaucratic processes

4: The focus on analyst satisfaction rather than on customer satisfaction

5: The belief that what worked yesterday will work today

6: The failure to innovate

7: The lack of focus on the core customer

8: The backtracking to basics

9: The loss of relevance

10: The lack of a coherent Plan to Win

11: The lack of a balanced Brand-Business Scorecard

12: The disregard for the changing world

 

 

Is there one that is most often the culprit in brand failures?

As we say in the book, the Twelve Tendencies for Trouble are not independent of each other. These are all interconnected forces. A company that succumbs to one seems to succumb to more than one. There is no single culprit. Each of the Twelve Tendencies for Trouble must be avoided.

 

“Problem solution is the most effective way to stay relevant.”

 

Encourage a Culture of Innovation

How to Avoid the Most Common Branding Mistakes

6 Rules of Brand Revitalization

 

How do you keep a brand relevant?

 

If you are looking to develop a strong global brand, you will find two names consistently mentioned as “go-to” experts: Larry Light and Joan Kiddon. They have just released a second edition of their book on branding, Six Rules of Brand Revitalization.

If you need to revitalize a brand, or if you are looking to avoid the pitfalls others have made, this book is a blueprint to follow for building a brand.

 

“Without trust, there can be no brand loyalty.” -Light / Kiddon

 

I recently spoke with the authors about their new book and the rules of branding.

 

6 Rules of Brand Revitalization

 

1. Refocus the organization.

Where do most corporate leaders get it wrong?

They tend to believe that “refocus” can happen through tools and templates and HR seminars. Refocus is more than filling in the blanks and talking the talk. When there is a conflict between strategy and culture, culture wins. A commitment to change requires refocusing of the cultural mindset that emanates from the top down. Merely embarking on a training program to encourage a focus on new tools, templates, and techniques can distract from the need to accomplish both the behavioral and attitudinal modifications that foster culture change.

 

“Refocusing an organization around common goals is the first step for brand revitalization.” -Light / Kiddon

 

6 Rules of Brand Revitalization

Rule 1: Refocus the organization

Rule 2: Restore brand relevance

Rule 3: Reinvent the brand experience

Rule 4: Reinforce a results culture

Rule 5: Rebuild brand trust

Rule 6: Realize global alignment

 

What tip would you provide to a leadership team in the midst of this refocus?

Leaders are different from commanders. Commanders manage by telling people what to do. They create acceptors. Leaders create believers. Acceptors go through the motions complying with the new processes and behaviors. Believers have true commitment that this refocus is a better path to a successful future. Acceptors are not the same as adherents. The leader must be the one to set the tone and drive the change for all to see and emulate. Leaders must demonstrate commitment if they expect people to become believers in the new world.

 

“The leader must set the tone and drive change.” -Light / Kiddon

 

  

2. Restore brand relevance.

What are the best ways to stay on top of changing customer expectations?

Stay up-to-date with all available information. Read a variety of sources, not just in your business’ field but also across many disciplines. Include regular market research reports. But also include what is happening in the world around us. Be observant. Be informed. Be open to new ideas.

In this world of access to “big data’” there is now a focus on data analytics. Analysis can tell us about what is happening today. Analysis is about the decomposition of data. But real insight does not come from analysis. It comes from creative synthesis. Analysis is about taking data apart. Synthesis is about putting together disparate sources of information in original ways. Synthesis is about detecting patterns that others fail to see. Keeping a brand relevant will involve both analysis and synthesis. Make sure that the organization is open and conducive to creative synthesis.

 

3. Reinvent the brand experience.

How do you define a brand experience?

The total brand experience includes consideration, shopping, purchase, use, service, online, offline, brand communications, handling of customer complaints, and so on. Every touch point with the customer is a part of the total brand experience. It includes every aspect of the brand promise: functional benefits, emotional and social rewards, solutions to problems, and so forth.

 

“Every touch point with the customer is a part of the total brand experience.” -Light / Kiddon

 

How fast can a brand innovate and reinvent?

How Companies Can Overcome the Pitfalls of Globalization

Overcome the Pitfalls of Globalization

Does your company have global aspirations?

How do you determine which countries to pursue and which to avoid?

 

When growth stalls, many managers decide that the answer to the slowing metrics is in going global. In many instances, managers don’t appreciate the inherent risks, miss the cultural nuances, and miscalculate the legal costs of the lofty goals globalization requires.

Robert Salomon is a professor of International Management and Faculty Scholar at NYU’s Stern School of Business and has been teaching and studying the effects of globalization for nearly 20 years. His new book, Global Vision: How Companies Can Overcome the Pitfalls of Globalization, is a guide to successfully navigating the global marketplace.

As the CEO of a global business myself, I was intrigued by the lessons in the book and reached out to Robert to share some of his findings with you.

 

The Problem of Unbridled Optimism

Global Vision . CoverIn your book, you say that one of the biggest problems with globalization is managers and their unbridled optimistic attitude. How does this increase risk?

The problem is that managers systematically overestimate the benefits of globalization and underestimate its costs. They tend to believe that globalization is relatively easy, and they therefore overlook the economic, political, and cultural risks involved.

Many people cite Thomas Friedman’s book “The World is Flat” as an urgent call toward globalization. What’s usually wrong with this thinking?

More and more research suggests that the world is less global than Friedman suggests, and not just by a little, but by a lot. And so if managers base their views of globalization on Friedman’s work, they will end up making very dangerous assumptions about globalization’s risks and challenges.

Why is overestimating market potential so prevalent?

It is prevalent because managers tend to think that consumers will respond to their company’s products similarly in every market. They therefore believe that they can simply port their existing business model to global markets with little change. In this respect, they fail to recognize the challenges that culture—in the form of different consumer cultures—can place on their business model.

 

Strategic Mistake: Porting existing business models to global markets with little change.

 

Understanding the Importance of Culture

Your research led you to the conclusion that “culture is probably the least understood.” Tell us more about the importance of culture and its role.

Culture is the least well understood of all of globalization’s challenges because culture is difficult to define and measure. Is culture about language differences? Yes. Is culture about religious differences? Yes. Is culture about differences in behaviors, norms, customs, and social structure? Yes. But even if we recognize these differences across countries, they are difficult to quantify and measure. Because culture is difficult to quantify and measure, managers end up discounting its effect on globalization. In my book, Global Vision, I discuss how culture impacts globalization and also how managers can quantify the impact of culture on global companies.

 

Culture is the least understood of the challenges of global expansion.