February 10, 2006
Capitalism, Culture and Google
GoogleIn Chinese there is no word for “privacy.”
Google’s business practices in China are under question. In having a different product for different counties. I am not so sure Google is departing from a sound business theory. I think Google’s strategy deserves a case study. On doing business in different cultures.
Yoest, Faisal Alam in
New Delhi, IndiaYour Business Blogger was in India working with North American and Indian managers. Having thrown off our British rulers, we still shared a common English language.
But cultural communication was another matter.
American managers were frustrated that Indian executives and staff were not always truthful.
Or so it seemed.
If a supervisor (of any nationality) would ask an Indian subordinate a closed question such as “Does the report include the budget from Bangalore?” The Indian subordinate reply always would be ‘yes.’ Even if the answer was ‘no.’ Accompanied by a side-to-side movement of the head — which corresponds to the up and down affirmative head nod in America.
Was the Indian employee lying to his superior?
It depends on cultural perspective.
(Yes, yes I know — Alert Readers know well that Your Business Blogger subscribes to Timeless Truth: Truth is not relative.)
But the Indian culture is one of deference and respect for authority. It is not within the languages or culture to say “no” to the boss. Immediate compliance — obedience — is something every boss, in every culture really wants — but American’s seldom openly admit.
The culture is different. Where change to USA standards should not be forced.
Supervisors working with Indian subordinates should only ask open ended questions. A question allowing something other than ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ “Show me the line item for employee taxi expenses for Bangalore.”
The USA manager should understand also that the Indian manager will seldom say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ to a subordinate.
Additional questions are time consuming. But necessary to do business across cultures. And to respect differences in culture and tradition.
I think we should ask more questions. And take the first step.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” says China’s Confucius.
A single step from a single person. Countries don’t do business. People do business.
China’s Community Party Leader,
Mao Tse-Tung on
February 29, 1972
Nixon went to China. Google went to China.
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Thank you (foot)notes:
In Chinese, in The Common Language (Mandarin) there are no words for “private” or “privacy” as we understand in English.
Mark at Mark My Words has commentary.
The first major wall was built during the reign of the First Emperor, the main emperor of the short-lived Qin dynasty. This wall was not constructed as a single endeavor, but rather was created by the joining of several regional walls built by the Warring States. It was located much further north than the current Great Wall, and very little remains of it. A defensive wall on the northern border was built and maintained by several dynasties at different times in Chinese history. The Great Wall that can still be seen today was built during the Ming Dynasty, on a much larger scale and with longer lasting materials (solid stone used for the sides and the top of the Wall) than any wall that had been built before. The primary purpose of the wall was not to keep out people, who could scale the wall, but to insure that semi-nomadic people on the outside of the wall could not cross with their horses or return easily with stolen property.