Sunday, April 11, 2010

What's your CQ ? Are you Glocal ?

Everybody, who’s anybody, is a management guru. Yours truly included. No wonder airport book shops are filled to the rafters with all sorts of business books. I’ve often wondered who reads all of them. Most of them are boring ego trips, or say the mind blowingly obvious in obscure jargon.

This mini tirade has been triggered by a book review I read. The review introduces two pieces of jargon I had never heard of. Cultural - intelligence quotient , CQ for short (after all any self respecting jargon has to have an abbreviation) . And “glocal” presumably short for “globalised local”.

This is all about how in this globalised world, you need to understand local cultures, know how to much to bow, know where to point your feet, and such stuff.

I have been around a bit; so can’t resist appointing myself as a guru and expounding on this “culture thing”. Methinks, this is grossly over emphasised. Yes local culture is important but its nowhere near as important as its made out to be.

Human beings the world over are the same. They have roughly the same needs and roughly the same expectations in a corporate setting. In most nations, people have become used to dealing with foreigners. And when they deal with a foreigner, they don’t expect her to be a local and adopt exactly the same practices ; they are usually fine if she’s different. Unless you give offence deliberately, you are usually OK.

Take China. Much was made of the “culture” here of drinking. When you take government officials out to dinner, you are supposed to drink yourself to death. Nonsense. I am a teetotaler and I just say politely that I don’t drink and nobody has taken offence to that. Similarly the ritual of exchanging visiting cards – two hands, small bow and all that stuff. Again, nobody has yet taken offence if I have forgotten my card or given it with one hand – they are usually more interested whether we deal professionally and fairly. A lot of these so called practices and symbols are all quite unimportant and it really doesn’t matter if you don’t follow them. Much is written about the Asian need for “saving face” and how a “yes is often a no”. Please tell me if there’s a single culture that thrives on losing face or on public humiliation. Rubbish. People world over have the same needs –nobody likes being told off in public and a direct message delivered with sincerity and kindness is well received everywhere.

What is important is genuine sincerity and respect for the country you live in and its people. Giving the card with both hands and then rubbishing China’s internet policy will give offence. Making the absolute correct bow with the Japanese and then making fun of their camera clicking habits won’t win you friends. Being curious about the country, trying to learn its language, traveling a bit around, being respectful of its strengths, not mentioning its perceived weaknesses, never comparing your own country with it are all sensible things to do anywhere. Being respectful to people and being sincere and kind to colleagues will get you far everywhere. Even if you do culturally the wrong thing, if people perceive that you are sincere and respectful, they usually take no offence.

Its all just common sense, really.