Sunday, May 27, 2012

Where should we put the desks?

If people consider the topic of culture’s influence business they often focus on the challenges of negotiations and contracts.  They don’t often discuss how culture can shape the layout of an office. 

Steelcase (  the global office design and furniture manufacturer is working to change that.  They conduced a three year study of the relationship between national culture and office space.  The results are presented in a book titled OFFICE CODE – Building connections between cultures and workplace design.  (

This book looked at six European countries – the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Future books will focus on Asia and North America.  It takes what Steelcase’s WorkSpace Futures know about office design and combines it with the cultural framework developed by Dutch social scientist Geert Hofstede. 

The results are presented in text, graphs and drawings that illustrate the lives of people in these countries. They explain the culture and lifestyle in each place.  Read It’s fascinating and easy to understand. 

Discover that countries like France with strong hierarchical orientation are likely to have more private offices than one that is more consultative such as the UK.  Note that for people in all six countries spending time at the end of the day with their families is important and that commuting to work is challenging everywhere.

OFFICE CODE helps us look at our workplace in another way and may add another dimension to office design around the world.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Need money? Create some.

In prior posts I’ve written about the challenge of collecting currency that you can’t use at home.  Not once did I think about not having currency either paper bills or coins available.

Springwise ( spots new business ideas around the world.  They found the problem, a an unusual solution in Zimbabwe, a country with multiple currencies.  Due to crushing inflation the Zimbabwe dollar was abandoned in 2009.  Since then the US dollar, British pound sterling and the South African rand are all accepted as legal currency.  While there bills for each are available, the stock of coins is limited.  As a result when a customers total bill at the supermarket isn’t an even amount, obtaining change is challenging.  The store can’t easily make change.  To solve the problem there are generally two choices.  Shoppers can buy something else to even the total or accept a credit to be used in that store.   However, Springwise found a company with another solution.  Yo Time.  Companies can now contract with Yo Time which will offer customers the missing change – in the form of minutes sent to their mobile phones. 

A creative solution to an unusual problem. What else will we find as we travel the world?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Is your country friendly?

As you think about all the places you’ve visited, lived in, worked in, which one would you consider the friendliest, the most welcoming? 

I recently came across two surveys that asked business people around the world that question.   The answer?  New Zealand.  Two surveys.  One answer.

At the end of 2011 AFAR magazine reported ( the rankings of a World Economic Forum survey that asked business leaders in 139 countries “How welcome are foreign visitors in your country?  New Zealand was voted Most Welcoming followed by Iceland and Lebanon.  The US came in near the bottom at 101.

Earlier this year Forbes magazine reported the results of the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey that touched the same issue. .  They asked expats how easy it was to build friendships with locals, learn the language and integrate into the community.  Once again New Zealand was #1 this time followed by Australia and South Africa.  Which countries came in last?  Saudi Arabia, Russia and India.

Congratulations New Zealand! 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Money, Money, Money

People who travel frequently outside their own country often accumulate a collection of currency they can’t use at home.  It sits in a drawer with their passport waiting for the next trip to a place where they can use Euros, Rupees, Rand or Hong Kong dollars.   How do you manage cash that isn’t your home currency is a challenge and everyone has an idea of what’s best.   

Before leaving home I acquire some of the currency used at my destination.  I want to be sure I can pay for the cab to the hotel, a snack when I arrive.  One of my friends would rather find an ATM when she arrives.  If she can’t find one in the airport she’s happy to negotiate an informal exchange rate at coffee stand so she can grab her latte and pay in US dollars.  Too complicated for me at the end of a ten-hour flight.

And to figure out the relative values of the currency you’ll be using one place to check is  Oanda currency exchange service (  Their currency converter is easy to use and offers an quick way to compare any of 180 currencies ranging from the Albanian Lek to the Zimbabwe Dollar.  (There’s a free app for your iPhone or iPad by the way.)

When you’re planning don’t forget the connection you’ll make somewhere between home and your ultimate destination.  What currency will you need for a cab into town in Zurich, lunch in Frankfurt, newspapers in New York? 

At the end of the trip how do you avoid returning with a stack of cash for your passport drawer?  A favorite approach is to apply that currency to your hotel bill.  But don’t be tempted to use every last bit of change in your wallet.   On my last trip a flight was cancelled which meant an unexpected night in a hotel, with meals, cabs and tips to be paid.  Glad I kept some currency as a souvenir!