Please forward this error screen to sharedip-10718044127. Your Shopping Cart is empty. As companies internationalize, their employees lose erin meyer the culture map pdf assumptions and norms. People in different countries react to inputs differently, communicate differently, and make decisions differently.
In their efforts to fix these problems, companies risk compromising attributes that underlie their commercial success. INSEAD’s Erin Meyer presents five principles that can prevent disintegration. Getting culture right should never be an afterthought. Companies that don’t plan for how individual employees and the organization as a whole will adapt to working in a global marketplace will sooner or later stumble because of unnoticed potholes. By the time they regain their balance, their economic opportunity may have passed. Many global corporations suffer from miscommunication and misunderstandings, especially between the head office and regional units.
This leads to a breakdown in trust. In trying to prevent those problems, companies often lose a key component of what makes them successful. How can managers adapt individual employees and the organization as a whole to the realities of working in a global marketplace? Until recently most of us worked in organizations that were largely local.
We interacted with colleagues and clients who were with us and culturally like us. Fellow staff members were often in the same building and at the very least were in the same country, which meant that they had similar ways of communicating and making decisions. But as companies internationalize, their employees become geographically dispersed and lose their shared assumptions and norms. Organically grown corporate cultures that were long taken for granted begin to break down.
Miscommunication becomes more frequent, and trust erodes, especially between the head office and the regional units. In the following pages I’ll describe the process of cultural disintegration and illustrate how traditional solutions can backfire. I’ll conclude with five principles that can help executives prevent disintegration from setting in. Consciously and wisely applying them will lead to a more nuanced understanding of the forces at play, which in itself will increase the chances of success. In companies where everyone is located in the same country, passing messages implicitly is frequently the norm. The closer the space we share and the more similar our cultural backgrounds, the stronger our reliance on unspoken cues. In these settings we communicate in shorthand, often without realizing it—reading our counterparts’ tone of voice, picking up on subtext.
At our company, managers didn’t finish their sentences. And for us, that said it all. Learn how to work more effectively with people from other countries. A lot of work is done in this implicit way without anyone’s taking note. If I walk by your office and see you studying October’s budget with a worried look, I might send you a comprehensive breakdown of my costs for the month. I might follow you to your office after the meeting to hear the real deal. In such ways we continually adjust to one another’s unspoken cues.
But when companies begin to expand internationally, implicit communication stops working. If you don’t tell me you need a budget breakdown, I won’t send one. If you say yes even though you mean no, I’ll think that you agreed. Because we aren’t in the same place, we can’t read one another’s body language—and because we’re from different cultures, we probably couldn’t read it accurately even if we were within arm’s length. The more we work with people from other cultures in far-flung locations, the less we pick up on subtle meaning and the more we fall victim to misunderstanding and inefficiency. The obvious solution is to put in place multiple processes that encourage employees to recap key messages and map out in words and pictograms who works for whom, with what responsibilities, and who will take which steps and when. For many organizations, that kind of change is largely positive.
The more we internationalized, the more we were forced to recap both orally and in writing what was meant and what was understood. And that was good for everybody. We realized that even among those of us sitting at headquarters, the added repetition meant better understanding and fewer false starts. One downside, of course, is that companies become more bureaucratic and communication slows down. But that isn’t the only cost. At Louis Vuitton, for example, mystery is part of the value proposition and infuses the way people work.
The more we wipe out ambiguity between what was meant and what was heard, the further we wander from that essential mysterious ingredient in our corporate culture that has led to our success. For companies in beauty, fashion, and other creative industries, the advantages of implicit communication may be particularly strong. But many other types of internationalizing companies have activities that may benefit from letting people leave messages open to interpretation, and they, too, need to think carefully about processes that might erode valuable ambiguity in an effort to improve communication. It’s natural to feel trust and empathy for those we see daily and those who think like us. We laugh together at the coffee machine.