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  THE CULTURAL SYNERGIST
ISSUE 31
February 2014
 

A friend recently shared with me an interesting scenario that I thought was worth sharing with you.  I think it is a great example of the misunderstandings that culture can produce. 

For the sake of anonymity I will name my Australian friend Clara.  Clara has travelled extensively, works in a culturally diverse setting and has friends of different nationalities. She began to question just how culturally intelligent she was as she was left grappling to understand what had happened. 

Clara needed to purchase a microwave.  Her neighbour connected her with a work colleague (Anchal) who was selling household items as she was permanently returning to her home country of India.  Anchal had been in Australia for 4 years. Both Clara and Anchal had a couple of telephone conversations discussing the condition, age, price of the microwave and the pick up arrangements.  Each time Clara asked Anchal to nominate a price the response from Anchal was that she was happy that it was going to be used and that Clara could 'have it'.  On the second occasion Anchal jokingly said that she would charge Clara $1.00.  Clara felt uncomfortable to ask Anchal for a fourth time, she also felt uncomfortable to take something without paying for it.  Clara decided that she wouldn't ask the price again and settled upon purchasing a food hamper that had a monetary value worth roughly the same amount that she estimated a second-hand microwave to be worth.

When Clara went to Anchal's house to collect the microwave she presented Anchal with the hamper, expressing her thanks at Anchal's generosity.   The two women enjoyed a cup of tea and a short chat about Anchal's exciting move back to India.  Clara was happy with her microwave and assumed that Clara too was happy with the exchange. 

Upon reaching home Clara received a text message that said:

Dear Clara,

I am happy to exchange our items back and am sorry for any confusion.
  I was feeling awkward about quoting a price when asked because you hadn't seen the microwave.  I therefore joked that you could give me $1.00. I expected that you would make an offer after you had seen it and we could settle on a price.  I was totally taken aback by your decision to give me a gift and assume that I would not accept any money only because I was too embarrassed to quote a price.  I was expecting to be paid. I will leave it entirely to your discretion - you can pay me or we can exchange our items back.

I ask you to pause here for a moment and consider what you think may have occurred (or not occurred) that led Anchal to send this message.
 

What assumptions did both parties make?

How, after two telephone conversations and a face-to-face meeting, could there have been a misunderstanding?

What role did culture play in this situation?

We invite you to send in your thoughts, expectations or any comments that you would like to make. All feedback will be treated as anonymous.
Please send your comments to [email protected]

Stayed tuned for our March newsletter for the outcome and the cultural lessons learned.

 
If you would like to read or follow our Cultural Intelligence Blog go to:
http://culturalsynergies.wordpress.com


 

Best Wishes
Tom Verghese

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  The Implications of Cultural Differences  















 
























       

 

Jugaard is a Hindi work meaning 'an improvised solution'.  This book consolidated for me the incredible innovation that is taking place in India, China and Africa. 

The message -  Western corporations can no longer rely purely on old formulas. These trusted formulas may have guaranteed success in the past but this doesn't ensure their continued sustainability in the current global business landscape.  The authors go on to argue that Western innovation has become too rigid, insular and bloated.

There are six principles of jugaad:

  • Seek opportunity in adversity

  • Do more with less

  • Think and act flexibly

  • Keep it simple

  • Include the margin
  • Follow your heart
These principles are demonstrated in some fascinating case studies.  The authors describe scarcity as the mother of invention.  Bold ideas, improvisation and frugal engineering are the key components to doing more with less. 

Apple, 3M, GE, IBM and Renault-Nissan are some of the Western organisations that are discussed and used as examples of organisations that have successfully demonstrated the principles of jugaad.

This is a provocative and inspiring book that I found difficult to put down.
 
 
 

RECOMMENDED BOOK:
" Jugaad Innovation: Think Fugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth."  By N. Radjou, J Prabhu & S. Ahuja (2012).
 
   
   
       
     
 
RESOURCES

'Raising Your Cultural IQ - DVD and CD

'Raising Your Cultural IQ' explores the issues around culture, the challenges that culture can pose and provides some great strategies on how to leverage on cultural differences and similarities.


 

'The Invisible Elephant - Exploring Cultural Awareness'
2nd Edition by Tom Verghese

Many aspects of culture are invisible, yet culture has an enormous impact on our lives. Like an Invisible Elephant, if ignored these aspects can lead to misunderstanding, stress and conflict. Alternatively, if attention is given to the Invisible Elephant, it can enhance productivity, improve teamwork and create more joy in our lives.

Book testimonial by Asma Ghabshi
Learning And Development Manager, Shell Oman:

"The Invisible Elephant made my perspective of my national culture in comparison to my personal culture more visible. It has given me a deep insight into dealing with people of different cultural backgrounds."


'Pillars of Growth - Strategies for Leading Sustainable Growth' - Book by Tom Verghese, Kerry Larkan, Steven Howard and Brad Tonini
Written with the business leaders and entrepreneurs of Asia in mind, 'Pillars of Growth' provides a road map to assist you in thinking through four critical concerns that impact the sustainable growth of every business.