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Understanding the Importance of Culture in Global Business The companies that will see growth in the coming decades are mastering how to do business across cultures. Our economic development will forever be defined as our ability to succeed internationally. PwC forecasts India’s real annual GDP growth until 2050 at 8. 8 percent, and China’s at 5. The list of fast-growing emerging markets goes on and on.
4 percent, comparable with most Western economies. If one day you’re asked to manage a supply chain in Malaysia, the next day you’re managing your virtual team in China, and the next you’re optimizing your company’s call center in India, you know that it’s just not possible to be an expert in every culture or geography in which you do business. What is possible is developing the mindset of a globalist — or, in other words, mastering cross-cultural core competency. If I tell you that when you engage in a sales call in the United States, the acceptable spatial proximity between you and your prospect is 2. 5 feet, I have accomplished the equivalent of a fisherman giving you a fish.
If I demonstrate to you, instead, how uncomfortable you feel when I say hello and proceed to shake your hand while standing 6 inches from your face, I have accomplished the equivalent of teaching you to fish. Now imagine if you could augment this simplistic metaphor incrementally, to every aspect in which culture impacts business. A Framework for Understanding Culture has many definitions. My own definition is that culture is our collective experience as a society, and its impact on our reaction and decision-making relative to every-day facts and circumstances. Why is cross-cultural competence critical to your professional future and the viability of your company? It’s omnipresent in every business interaction and strategic decision. According to a May 2006 Accenture study, optimizing this process through training can increase productivity by 30 percent.
It is not feasible to be an expert on all the world’s cultures. It is possible, however, to incorporate a cross-cultural framework that improves cross-cultural understanding and interactions. Chinese cultural themes are rooted in folk belief and Confucian values, including filial piety, thrift, endurance, and trustworthiness. These values are deeply engrained in the Chinese psyche. The Confucian value of endurance has a profound impact on the business process.