In light of our recent "Growing Your Business in Asia" series, here is an example of a company growing their business not only in Asia, but worldwide. This recent article about Samsung, titled Asia's New Model Company, provides a number of insights about the fastest growing company in Asia.
Click here to view the article.
Image credit: Jeff McNeill
By: Jay Gronlund
Working in foreign markets can be stimulating and educational, yet cultural nuances can also become an insurmountable barrier for some. No region is more different from our Christian rooted cultures in North/South America and Europe than the emerging markets in SE Asia. Their attitude, behavior and even business practices are influenced by vastly different values, shaped centuries ago by their religion, culture and unique history. Any initiative to develop a business growth partnership with Thai managers must first address these cultural differences.
Several years ago, Withlin Worldwide conducted a survey among executives in Asia and North America asking them to prioritize their cultural values by importance. As you can see below, North American values are much more egocentric, consistent with original Protestant Ethic beliefs, while Asian values are much broader, even consensus-driven, and outside the focus on the individual:
- Hard Work
- Respect for Learning
- Openness to New Ideas
- Freedom of Expression
- Personal Freedom
- Individual Rights
- Hard Work
- Personal Achievement
- Thinking for Oneself
Recently I had an opportunity to do two workshops in Thailand, the first on “Ideation: New Innovations in Marketing” and the second on “How to Position Brands for Social Media”. Both involved looking into the future, to determine what their marketing and selling environment will be like over the next 5-10 years, and whether/how they could leverage certain trends and technological advances. I was prudent enough to acknowledge that I was no expert in these areas for Thailand, and requested a local Thai expert to work with me when discussing the local implications of these ground-breaking topics.
What I did not fully appreciate was how sensitive and aware Thai business people are of these pioneering trends taking place in the West. They were astute enough to know, mainly from the past, that many of these evolving customer and business trends will soon have a significant impact on their own selling and marketing practices in Thailand. The main difference, as in so many in-depth discussions about B2B and B2C transformations, was culture.
For the ideation workshop, I highlighted transformative trends evolving in the West in three areas: customer needs/behavior, distribution and retail/trade channels, and new innovations/practices in marketing, promotion and media, supplemented by many examples from the West. The audience was fascinated. But then the real practical, thought-provoking questions surfaced – i.e. will these same trends take place soon in Thailand, and whether/how they would be different and affect their business climate. The discussion was open, rich and stimulating. Everyone had a different opinion. But behind each person’s prognosis was the ultimate question of whether and how new ides would actually be accepted by customers and business leaders. Every prediction reflected basic Thai values and cultural nuances, which was deemed essential for local success.
The discussion in the second workshop on the impact of new social media like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn was more nuanced and insightful in that most were already very familiar with these social media vehicles. While usage of social media is now dominated for personal connections, the bigger question was how businesses could harness the reach and engaging benefits of these media to grow their business. The key was that content mattered more than the medium, and the core message must be consistent with Thai values. These discussions also reminded me that basic business practices in Thailand were heavily influenced by their consensus-driven culture, so that these individualistic or one-on-one media were almost an anathema to many of them at first.
These workshops were successful mainly because the framework of Western trends and innovations acted as a “door opener” for the audience to ask some fundamental questions on how these practices could be transformed to work in the Thai culture and business environment. This discussion would never have been so open and constructive without the initial recognition of these important cultural nuances, however. Credibility was critical, and this meant listening and learning from these local experts and the audience about creative ways to apply new ideas and these novel social media practices in Thailand.
Have you experienced a similar “barrier” of different cultural values when working in Asia? We would appreciate hearing about them, and also would be happy to share details on these workshops with you. Please let us know.
image credit: DennisSylvesterHurd and duncan
By: Jay Gronlund, Global Partners Principal
When money is tight, as in the current recession, there is a tendency to pull back on initiatives that don't produce an immediate return. Frequently any effort that involves some form of new business assessment or brainstorming session is the first to go. These innovation initiatives are usually viewed as too separate, specialized or nebulous to justify when budgets are reduced.
However, there are many successful business leaders with a track record of sustaining or even initiating an innovation process during a recession. Their common talent is an ability to create a balanced collaboration (e.g. creative and practical) and inspire a culture of ongoing innovation - e.g. at Apple, HP, Toyota, Nike, Starbucks or Gucci. In fact, a recent worldwide survey by Booz & Company on innovation reported that 40% of responding companies are actually "speeding up their efforts to make innovation more efficient", as a result of this downturn. What qualities and techniques have made these companies so innovative and successful? Is it people, a special approach, bigger budgets, R&D resources, or simply luck?
An examination of the most successful innovative companies that have broken the mold and introduced ground-breaking ideas reflects certain attributes in common:
Culture of Learning and Innovation
The Customer Experience Dominates
The ability to identify and nurture Creative People
Finishing - from Concept to Commercialization