January 5, 2001

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Building Cross-Cultural Competence

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 3:48 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Building Cross-Cultural Competence: How to Create Wealth from Conflicting Value by Charles Hampden-Turner & Fons Trompenaars, Yale University Press, 375 Pages, $29,95 Hardcover, November 2000, ISBN 0300084978
Because I'm human and a slacker at heart, "Building Cross-Cultural Competence" is not the kind of book I usually consider for JCS. It is from a University press (read: dry and boring), is scholarly (read: dry and boring), is on a subject that couldn't be interesting, (read: dry and boring) and is a physically large book (read: dry, boring AND time-consuming). HOWEVER, before I completely turn you off, let me tell you about what I learned: to overlook this book is to make a BIG mistake.
Yes, the book is published by a University Press, but is far from being dry and boring (even if the cover art is awful). They use graphics to add a surprising amount of humor. I know, I know, I said a University Press published the book, but you'll easily be engrossed by the wealth of timely information within.
Yes, the book is scholarly. The authors used more than fourteen years of research with nearly 50,000 managers who responded along with their international business experience to compare American values with over forty other nations.
Yes, it concerns a topic that cannot be interesting- usually. The authors define six cultural issues and their reverse images (for example, universalism vs. particularism) as examples of how people of different cultures look at the same issue. The authors make the point that often Americans look at one side and the rest of the world looks at the other side. Americans should consider this as we are negotiating, selling, or just relating to people of other cultures.
Yes, it is a physically large book, but only because it has quite a few illustrations and graphs that do a great job in making this easy-to-read book immediately understandable. Actually, the layout of the book is kind of fun. The odd numbered chapters are the explanation of the six cultural issues in detail, and then, the even numbered chapters consist of examples that illustrate the issues. These examples are perhaps ones you have heard before, but when looked at through the authors' prism, they are seen in new light.
Why do we need this book? Some factiods: 25% of Silicon Valley's technology business is run by Chinese and Indian engineers. Immigrant-run companies account for $16.8 billion in sales in 1998, and created 58,282 jobs in that year alone. This constituted 17 percent of the total sales in 1998, and 14 percent of the total jobs. Yes, folks. The train is leaving the station and you can either board or be left behind. This book helps us, at least, know the fare.