The Cultural Synergist - Issue 8 August 2008

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Welcome to the Cultural Synergies August 2008 newsletter.

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The Cultural Synergies Team
August 2008

One World One Dream
The Olympic opening ceremony was a spectacular event that was watched by billions around the globe.  As many of us throughout the world are glued to our televisions, watching and supporting our fellow countrymen and women, I am guessing that a higher than usual sense of patriotism has arisen in many of us.  Being of Indian decent, having grown up in Malaysia, now living in Australia and having friends and clients spread throughout the globe my country interests in the Olympic games are diverse.

As we settle into week two of the Olympic games I began to think about them in another sense, that is:  Does the Olympic games build unity between countries?  Do they play a role in building �one world�? If we consider the excessive pressures placed on our athletes - to strive, to compete, to win, to be the best in the world, how can this contribute to one world?

While I suspect that most of us don�t have terribly much interest in the medal tally and athletic success of countries other than our own, there is something exciting about seeing people from all over the world coming together for an event that celebrates the diversity that exists in our world.

The Olympics also offers an opportunity to momentarily put aside the less desirable world events for a short time as we saw in the first few days of the games. Two medal winners � one a Georgian woman and one a Russian woman, embraced and kissed each other, ignoring the sudden eruption of war that had occurred between their countries just days beforehand.  

As I was musing over these events, I began to liken the unfolding events of the Olympics to the workings of a multinational corporation (MNC) � how you may ask?  Well, when you work for an MNC with offices spread throughout the globe, each country office is one of many that comes together to create the global enterprise.   Often what happens is that each regional office operates on a day-to-day basis as an independent entity with its focus limited to the horizon of their local country and to the specific concerns and needs of their business as usual operations.

Often there is a degree a competitiveness and rivalry between countries and offices, indeed some corporations foster such competition.  This country-focus can be hugely evident when MNC�s try to get global projects off the ground that have a discretionary funding requirement and/or involvement from many disparate local offices.  In certain MNC�s an unhealthy over competitive zeal from local offices can result in missed opportunities to the corporation as a whole, as cross-border information is not shared and local strengths not exploited (eg: failure to leverage labour cost differentials, failure to share locally developed processes, systems and experience). 

Are MNC�s not that dissimilar to the Olympic games? How can we build collaboration and a greater sense of unity across borders?  We all want to win and be the best in whatever we do.  Arguably it is important to establish a competitive advantage by focusing on what we are good at.  For example some cultures are better at running, while others maybe better at team sports rather than individual events, just as some country offices maybe more successful and cost effective in manufacturing goods or delivering information to customers.   Locating that niche and exploiting it in the most effective manner is critical to ensuring success.

So in answer to my question � I am not sure that the Olympic games do make a significant contribution to the creation of �one world�. However, I would argue that while providing us with a sense of excitement around the world, it does add to the unity of fellow countrymen and women within their own countries and perhaps momentarily can add to a degree of individual relationship building where the worlds troubles can be set aside for a short time. 

The competitive aspect of the Olympic games allows countries to display and leverage on their country�s strengths and abilities, just as competition between the MNC country offices allows them to focus on what they do best. With the focus being mostly at the micro level, striving for one world and greater unity is perhaps still a way away.

 Recommended Book
The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online.  D.Teten and S.Allen. American Management Association; 2005

How do you open doors and close deals online?  Business relationships have traditionally involved making and maintaining contracts via phone, face-to-face meetings and letters.   The authors maintain that whether or not you choose to use social software technologies (such as email lists, virtual communities and blogs) our competitors do and we are surrounded by it.  They focus mostly on the timeless business practices that can help you to build a powerful network.

I particularly found some simple to use online tools useful, such as the advantages of instant messaging rather than email and telephone in certain situations and some great tips on how to present yourself online.  It�s not so much about how to network as it is about the results of the relationships that are established.

 I was drawn to this book because working across borders requires building and maintaining strong business relationships virtually.  Online communication is a large component of growing our businesses and The Virtual Handshake has some tips and great explanations of how people �connect� online and how you can move from opening to closing deals virtually.


'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.

Visit our store at

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