The paper provides a review of the article “Why Culture Should Be Cool” published in the print and online versions of The Economist in 2013. In addition to the summary of the key points mentioned in the article, the paper also provides the reader’s reaction to the claims made in the article with references to the book Fish Can’t See Water written by Kai Hammerich and Richard Lewis. The paper concludes that cultural differences should be valued by global leaders, and the issues of intercultural communication should be addressed to achieve high competitiveness. Keywords: intercultural communication, global leadership, change, the cultural stereotype
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Economist Magazine Article Review
The article “Why Culture Should Be Cool” was published in the print and online versions of The Economist in 2013. The author of the article focused on discussing the complex problem of the intercultural communication in the sphere of business while presenting the review of the book Fish Can’t See Water by Kai Hammerich and Richard Lewis and stating how effectively the ideas in the book can reflect the real situation in the global market. The main claim of the article is that the companies aiming at the global leadership and the expansion of the market should refer not only to the advantages of globalization but also to the necessity of valuing cultural differences while making a shift.
The article begins with the discussion of the failure of Walmart to expand in the German market in the 1990s. The author of the article notes that the retail chain leaders failed to achieve the success in the region because they focused on “Americanising” the stores in terms of using greeters at doors and prioritizing the use of the English language (“Why culture should be cool,” 2013, para. 1-2). Such approaches cannot be discussed as effective because they create barriers to communication for both employees and consumers. Therefore, the author concludes that “coping with cultural differences is becoming a valued skill” (“Why culture should be cool,” 2013, para. 2). The focus on cultural differences is important for global leaders because, in spite of the progress of globalization in the world, cultural backgrounds play a key role in determining the employees and customers’ identity.
The problem is often in the fact that companies and leaders often save resources and do not pay much attention to the cultural environment in which they plan to operate. However, even if the leaders have problems with developing their awareness of the culture, they try to examine the particular features of the culture to work with employees in order to implement the change in the company (Congden, Matveev, & Desplaces, 2009; Wibbeke, 2013). Therefore, the author of the article accentuates that such critical situations when companies ignore studying the markets and cultural backgrounds, as it was in the case of Walmart, are rare today (“Why culture should be cool,” 2013, para. 4). It is also the consequence of the leaders’ focus on their global orientation and their attempts to ignore creating stereotypes.
It is mentioned in the article that the cultural behaviors in different regions of the world can be divided into three cultural archetypes. The authors of the book and article determine “linear-active,” “multi-active,” and “reactive” archetypes that are typical of Americans, Latin Americans, and Asians accordingly (“Why culture should be cool,” 2013, para. 6). However, the majority of nations are representatives of mixed types. These conclusions are in line with the management theories according to which the Americans are discussed as timekeepers, the citizens of the Latin American countries are perceived as highly emotional, and Asians as focused on stability and listening to the partner (Diao & Park, 2012, p. 7298; “Why culture should be cool,” 2013, para. 6). However, it is possible to assume that such divisions of diverse people and cultures into categories are not only helpful for global leaders to make a change, but they are also leading to creating more stereotypical visions.
In order to avoid the creation of stereotypes while discussing the aspects of diverse cultures and intercultural communication and business, the author of the article refers to discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each culture. The reader learns that cultures can be individualistic, methodical, and collectivist, among other types, and these cultural features can help companies develop only at the concrete stage of the business growth (“Why culture should be cool,” 2013, para. 8). Such statements allow concluding that there are no ideal cultures, and the process of globalization is oriented to the integration of the cultural differences to achieve the competitive advantage and success. The example of Walmart’s strategy in the 1990s and today demonstrates that more attention should be paid to the “cultural sensitivity” (“Why culture should be cool,” 2013, para. 10). As a result, those employers and businesses that seek global leadership try to combine the aspects of different cultures into their strategies and improve intercultural communication.
The article can add to the person’s understanding of the idea of global leadership with the focus on the issue of intercultural communication. The reason is that the article explains how ineffective approaches to communicating with representatives of different cultures can lead to business failures and economic losses. It is the important knowledge for those persons, who aim to become the global leaders, expand the wide markets, address the multicultural customers, and work with diverse partners (Miska, Stahl, & Mendenhall, 2013, p. 553). When leaders fail to examine the data on the culture, values, and traditions of their potential partners, employees, and consumers, they can lose significant resources and spend much time while implementing the change in vain (Froese, Peltokorpi, & Ko, 2012).
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Moreover, the author of the article develops an important idea that companies “can sometimes turn more ethnocentric as they become more successful” and “more proudly nationalistic” than they were earlier (“Why culture should be cool,” 2013, para. 9). Referring to Hammerich and Lewis, the author of the review, notes that such behaviors lead to worsening the intercultural communication. As a result, leaders become at risk of losing the loyalty of customers and employees who need to be respected and heard (Peltokorpi, 2010; Peltokorpi & Clausen, 2011). It is possible to agree with this idea because it is typical for many successful companies to accentuate their particular vision while ignoring the culture in which they operate.
The article presenting the review of the book by Hammerich and Lewis and the analysis of the issue of expanding in the new markets and addressing diverse cultures is important to provide insights on the topic of intercultural communication and global leadership. The leaders can succeed in their intercultural activities only when they respect the cultures, values, and traditions of countries where they operate or diverse employees who are expected to contribute to the company’s development and increased competitiveness. Therefore, intercultural communication remains to be a challenging sphere in management and business relations.
Congden, S. W., Matveev, A. V., & Desplaces, D. E. (2009). Cross-cultural communication and multicultural team performance: A German and American comparison. Journal of Comparative International Management, 12(2), 5-18.
Diao, A., & Park, D. S. (2012). Culturally intelligent for satisfied workers in a multinational organization: Role of intercultural communication motivation. African Journal of Business Management, 6(24), 7296-7309.
Froese, F. J., Peltokorpi, V., & Ko, K. (2012). The influence of intercultural communication on cross-cultural adjustment and work attitudes: Foreign workers in South Korea. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 36(3), 331-342.
Miska, C., Stahl, G. K., & Mendenhall, M. E. (2013). Intercultural competencies as antecedents of responsible global leadership. European Journal of International Management, 7(5), 550-569.
Peltokorpi, V. (2010). Intercultural communication in foreign subsidiaries: The influence of expatriates’ language and cultural competencies. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 26(2), 176-188.
Peltokorpi, V., & Clausen, L. (2011). Linguistic and cultural barriers to intercultural communication in foreign subsidiaries. Asian Business & Management, 10(4), 509-528.
Why culture should be cool. (2013). The Economist. Web.
Wibbeke, E. (2013). Global business leadership. Oxford, UK: Elsevier.