Monday, 12 April 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.

26 comments:

ambulisamma said...

Absolutely true,but still we cant help criticizing their habits atleast within our group,have you not ever made fun of that spitting habit of chinese in public?

Anonymous said...

changing name to suit the country people!!! while in rome be a roman ok..but isnt this carrying it a bit too far :D :D in that case..thiru kungfu wud be a great choice :D :D try panni parunga :)

RamMmm said...

naalaikku neenga oru book ezhudhinaa, you have to introduce one more entree into the abbreviation soup. illainna no madhippu ungalukku. :-D :-D

A journey called Life said...

your last but one para summarised it beautifully.. when one is in a foreign land, its a little bit of a give and take.. one need not go/and is not expected to (in most cases) out of the way to blend into the culture..

Ramesh said...

@ambulisamma - No way. Never.

@gilsu - Still smitten is our gilsu. Kung Fu is very different from K'ung Tzu. Kashtam kashtam (sacrilege)

@RamMmm - Absolutely :) Thats why no book !!

@AJCL - Yeah agree. Its wonderful when there's a AJCL comment ; simply brightens up everything :)

Deepa said...

What an eerie coincidence!! Last evening me and my husband were discussing the same thing. Even if you keep yourself in the other person's shoes, you'll know! What if you are eating something and someone else has this 'eeeewww what have you got there' look on his face all the time. How would you feel? What if you are standing in a group of colleagues who speak the same native language and start conversing in their native. You don't have a clue of whats going on, and you are just standing there like a fool.

In that sense one has a lot to learn from the Americans. There are cultural differences here too. But people respect each other, and are very thoughtful when dealing with others.

@ambulisamma: there is a famous dialogue in a Hindi movie. In english it would mean, "people living in glass houses should not throw stones on others". Indians laughing on Chinese spitting in public, is a little out of place! :D:D

gils said...

//Indians laughing on Chinese spitting in public, is a little out of place! :D:D//

sabaashh..sariaaana poatti :D :D narayana narayana

gils said...

(in english for Deepa)

WOWWW...whatta competition :D :D oh lord.. oh lord

gils said...

//Kung Fu is very different from K'ung Tzu.//

i the know thalaivaray..stl its easier to type kung fu :D :D

zeno said...

Business for dummies 101 could be the title, and CSQ could be the term you introduce and anyways u need nt worry about pseudonym as u already have more than a few ;)

On a much more series note, an eye opener post!

Deepa said...

@Gils- See thanks to your translation, chumma I'll pick up some Tamil! :)

Ada paavi! you'll get me beaten up one day! (unless thats your intention) :D:D

gils said...

//you'll get me beaten up one day! (unless thats your intention) //

cha cha...i think u r mistaking ambulimama to be a violent person :D :D she wont beat u :D :D (hehehee...naarayana naarayana)

mahesh said...

Great Post as usual. Usually found that people are friendly and accomodating the few places that I went to. In some places the friendliness was more than others.

The last line of yours - Some one had told me that Common sense is the most uncommon thing to find :)

ambulisamma said...

@ Deepa: I agree indians spitting in public places,but in China its lil too much that they announce in train that 'You are entering an international zone; please refrain from spitting'.
I dont think indians are this worse.
@gils: Naradhar velai aarambichutteengala,siva siva.nnu irukkara enna vambukku izhukkareenga,plus
adi odhai.nnu oru punidhamana blog.ah ratha kalavara boomi aakkareenga.

Deepa said...

@ambulisamma: I am still not convinced, but I am gonna rest my case with this last one. Do the Chinese spit right after hearing these announcements? 'Coz in India, people like to spit right ON the 'No Spitting' signs everywhere, especially with beetle leaves.

Sandhya Sriram said...

wow ramesh, this felt more a continuation of the light sunday post. added to which was of-course the very interesting (ahem) comment thread.

I really agree with you Ramesh.

// 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. // very very powerful sentences - absolutely!!

there are certain things about every cultures which are nice to know and be part of

for ex: i was really surprised at the respect which europeans have for other people's time. when i did my intl stint, my boss asked me to walk halfway out of a meeting as a taxi booked for me had arrived.

i was really touched by the "Photo Clicking" of Japanese. the famous
TPM expert suzuki san clicked a picture with me, printed it and sent it across on my name. i still preserve it as one of my prized possessions.

i was quite amazed at the warmth of the belgians - i had met an indian batch of students studying about diamonds on the road in Germany. they then invited me over to Antwerpen where i met a person for whom they worked. the warm couple took me to ostende, showed me the place around and ensured that i reach back to my place safely.

Many many such incidents. some outside the country, many back home (which by itself is a beautiful bouquet of amazing cultures)

Each culture is special, warm and unique. you dont need a quotient to succeed but you need a quotient to enjoy and relish them.

ambulisamma said...

@Deepa: Cant agree more on beetle leaves in India,but i think indians dare to do it in their own country,but not in other country.

J said...

I am somehow not buying this idea that you dont have a business book plan in the making :) Very nice post on and I agree that respect and sincerity are a must in all professional dealings, be it internationally or not. How do you handle the official Chinese dinners where there is no sight of veg options?

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - Americans in New England are indeed very international. As are many Europeans. Thoughtfulness is a skill that can be acquired - irrespective of from where you are, I think.

@gils - Gilsu showing some Naradar like qualities :) Karate first; now Kung Fu - Gilsu who are you going to bash up ?? I better run for cover.

@zeno - More like business by a dummy !

@Mahesh - People come in all sorts of shades from downright hostile to downright friendly. But I think it will be more affected by your sincerity than with knowing the small rituals.

@Sandhya - Oh yes, time is one of those things that is made out to be very cultural. Indian Standard Time is a common phrase. Its just not true in a business setting anymore. We don't do IST in conference calls - if we did we would never be in business. Many business meetings in India start right on time with little prompting. And insensitivity to others' time is nothing cultural. Fiddling with your Blackberry during a presentation is not any nationality's monopoly. Hence my argument that too much is made of cultural niceties.

@J - Flattered. Oh the Chinese dinners are a challenge, especially, where I live, where meat eating has been taken to a fine art (chicken is all fine but a whole thing with the beak pointing to the VIP on the table is a bit too much). Many cups of tea with wisecracks about watching the weight has become second nature ....

Vishal said...

Very meaningful and thought provoking tirade... TKT :-)

My CQ is below average, though I have travelled internationally more than I have done within India. Still, I like the culture wherever I go. "People are really the same". It is the respect and kindness towards the people which creates magical harmony and enduring relationships at work.

Reflections said...

Loved the post Ramesh!!!! What can I say....every now and then I meet people here in Dubai who enjoy all the comforts of the place and then turn around and make fun of the arabs, their customs and habits. Agreed there r faults but there is no need to take it to the extreme.

U knw some parents complain kids have to learn Arabic...I mean wth dont they realise it is the national language here and tho english is widely used knowing arabic can come in handy.

I can go on....it surprises me people can be so thoughtless. Like u said "Being respectful to people and being sincere and kind to colleagues will get you far everywhere."

Ramesh said...

Vishal - You'll make a true international citizen Vishal - exactly the right mind set for global success.

@Reflections - Hey thanks. I really can't tolerate those who come to another country and start deriding the people and the culture. That's a grievous sin in my book. One reason everybody loves you is because you are sincere and kind to everybody :)

Anonymous said...

Good article Ramesh. Being very new to global travel I was first intimidated by the need to understand various cultural requirements - what I have in fact found is that being respectful and polite is a simple yet common expectation world wide - how often that simple rule is forgotten !!
Trevor - down under

Vishal said...

Thank you Ramesh! In fact yet to learn a lot of things from role model like you! :-)

Half Indian said...

Diplomatic Protocol is commonly described as a set of international courtesy rules. These well-established and time-honored rules have made it easier for nations and people to live and work together.
Eyes to see,
Ears to listen,
Brain to think,
Hands to show,
With love to wake them up,
This is the diplomatic etiquette.
He, he, plus a little of humor.

Ramesh said...

@Dave - Very well said. Nations and people unfortunately often don't live and work together well, but these are lovely golden rules.

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