Electricity being out for three weeks nearly forces an elevator sale to nearly be cancelled, no suitable drainage from massive rains floods his familys apartment, and the Indian value of bartering and customizing is diametrically opposed to the strict discipline of a low-end product strategy where no variation in standard products is allowed.
Mr. Napolis experiences culminate in one year elapsing before a single elevator is sold, and that one sale is made when hes out of the country and his Indian sales managers compromise and sell a customized unit. Mr. Napoli, upon hearing this while in Italy for the birth of a child, becomes angry and feels betrayed. While Mr. Napoli did have several excellent tactical victories, he lost the cultural war in his first year of working in India. No matter how strong-willed and stubborn, Mr. Napoli could not make even a small part of the Indian culture he was interacting with bend to his expectations. India taught Mr. Napoli patience and respect for its own perception of time, and the need for significant flexibility in business models when entering new nations and cultures. To reflect on his experiences, one can see how the westernization of third world nations is anything but pervasive and is simplified in many discussions. In the end, Mr. Napoli became more Indian vs. India becoming more like Mr. Napoli.
Key Findings on Globalization and Culture
In analyzing globalization and its impact on cultures, the reciprocal effects of one culture on another is a central focus on this paper. For every example of westernization influencing widely divergent cultures, the same holds true of westernized nations failing in their attempts to accomplish business strategies in widely divergent cultures. In studying the impact of globalization then its best to focus on case studies at the individual and group level. Observations, analysis, and conclusions gained at this level of analysis are useful for defining the broader implications of globalization across cultures. The lessons learned from this level of analysis are presented in this section.
First, ethnocentric behavior on the part of people and organizations force more compromise in all cultures affected by it and a moment of truth for many cultural members. What globalization is forcing however is a moment of truth for all cultures participating on a global scale, and that moment of truth is the questioning of ethnocentric perceptions of themselves and others. The moment of truth in ethnocentrism for Indian call center representatives was the call completed with no reference to outsourcing and services up-sold to clients in the U.S., the UK or any other western nations. For Silvio Napoli and others like him, the moment of truth was realizing that new and unusual cultures werent there to support their strategies, but that their strategies must support the cultures they are intending to participate in. Focusing on the personal interactions first and how they accumulate up to one cultures response to another is critical in seeing this dynamic. Applying social science research tools to ethnocentrism followed by culture shock, then assimilation and finally acceptance would quantify this trend.
Second, each nation and culture in the world has much more bargaining power than ever before because personal productivity is the most lasting competitive differentiator there is in manufacturing and service industries. According to Dr. Porter in Competitive Advantage of Nations (1990), personal productivity is the prime differentiator and competitive strength of economies and companies. Nations and cultures now have the choice of who they will work with or not. There is an increasingly level playing field emerging directly as a result of global economics playing out. Wal-Mart needs Indonesia and Southeast Asia for manufacturing workers and to keep their prices down, but these countries could easily push them away. They dont because Wal-Mart brings work to these poor nations but must be monitored to make sure they do it ethically and without taking advantage of these disadvantaged counties who need the work. The bottom line is that there is a bargaining going over more than ever before between the nations whose industries need labor, materials, and unique competitive advantages the developing nations have. These latter nations literally have their choice of which nations and companies they will choose to work with. So an exchange is starting to appear between nations looking to cooperate with one another.
Third, if anything, there is an anti-Americanization and westernization sentiment running through many countries today, mainly due to the Iraq war and its many implications globally and tariff decisions regarding Europe. What is happening is that countries and cultures are demanding personalization and customization of their products and services at an unprecedented rate, not to make a political statement, but because so many companies are willing to make those commitments to them in terms of strategies. The fact that only 12% of the people in the world earn over $10,000 a year per capita highlights the fact that the Americanization of economies is nearly complete, as the UK, Australia and other highly westernized nations are at competitive parity with the United States. The challenge in terms of globalization is not standardizing and homogenizing processes but the customization of them to countries much poorer and complex in their needs than westernized ones. The bottom line to this point is the product customization and personalization throughout Muslim-based nations is the biggest challenge for any American-based corporation today and yet, one that holds the greatest potential for future growth.
Fourth, the conflicts at the cultural level continue and get resolved faster due to the globalized nature of many societies and the “landing zones” that appear nearly overnight in major cities around the world to assist immigrants get acclimated to new cultures. Take the Indian community in London for example, and the fact that thousands of Indian nationals arrive at Heathrow Airport every week and need to find food, a place to stay, a job, and work in English society. The assimilation occurs very quickly and is one that melds their own cultural morns with those of the British. The result is that the assimilation process is much faster for Indians and they quickly find their own lives in Britain. Why this matters to a discussion of globalization is that the size of these “landing zones” and their speed of assimilating people passing through them has greatly increased since the Internet was discovered and widely used.
In summary, cultures impact and are constantly being impacted by globalization. There is no homogenizing of the world going on apart from those areas who welcome it; the fact that Pakistan has McDonalds is by choice for example is not due to overt efforts from McDonalds, its because local businessmen wanted to invest in one there. The knee-jerk reaction to the Americanization of the world is false and ignores the fact that 88% of the worlds people are making less than $10K a year in income, yet they represent the fastest growing segment of many markets. In that paradox is the challenge of globalization for companies and even entire nations.
Cultures influence and impact one another at a personal level first, comprised by millions of moments of truth that over time define how cultural values conflict or align with one another. As a result of these moments of truth accumulating over time, cultures define their distances from each other. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate through case studies, empirical evidence, secondary research, and primary research from interviews with people who attempted to assimilate into cultures radically different than their own and the insights gained.
Case Study Analysis (2005) – From the research and advisory firm LWC Research. Orange, CA. Accessed from the Internet on November 21, 2006:
Competitive Advantage of Nations (1990) – Dr. Michael Porter. Article from Harvard Business Review. Boston, MA. March – April 1990. Pages 73-91.
Selling Into India: Lessons Learned From Silvio Napoli (2005) – Article from CRM Buyer Magazine. Louis Columbus. April 22, 2005
Silvio Napoli at Schindler India (A) (2003). – Accessible after purchase from the Harvard Business Review Website: http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml;jsessionid=3XHOCFKZZ3NGQAKRGWDSELQ?id=303086
The World Is Flat (2005) – Thomas R. Friedman, author. Farrar, Straus,.