Saturday, February 16, 2008

Leave my Phone and Blackberry at Home?

An American diplomat told me that we Americans could do much more business around the world if we’d learn to leave our watches and blackberrys at home. Hard to imagine isn’t it? But why such an odd suggestion? Because he told me, most of the world does not live by the clock. Focus on time and schedule interferes with getting to know people and connections with people are the key to doing business. One man’s opinion?

Not exactly. A few weeks later a trade commissioner from Spain suggested that I tell all Americans to forego checking their watches and just relax a bit - take the time to have a lunch that's more than a sandwich. Talk about something other than business. Get to know the people you’re with. No watches, no e-mail, just conversation, building a connection. Regardless of location people prefer to do business with people they know, people they like. In some places establishing the relationships requires more time than in others. Sometime you have to forget the schedule, lose the watch, the blackberry. Take the time. Get to know people. Increase the opportunities for business to develop.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Napkin can be a Communication Device

A napkin is seen as a bit of cloth protecting our clothes from the errant food that slips off a fork into our laps. But its purpose is more than protection. It’s a communication tool. The host or hostess tells us to begin a meal when they place their napkin in their lap. (While we often pick up our napkin as soon as we sit down, at a formal dinner guests don’t even touch their napkins until the host makes this move).

Leaving the table during a meal, but coming back? Tell the wait staff by placing you napkin on your chair. They’ll leave your plate in place. Time to go? Place your napkin, loosely folded to the left of your plate. The staff will know they can clear. Napkins protect us and tell a story.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

B.Y.O.C. The Chopstick Dilemma

If it isn’t difficult enough to learn to use chopstick if your daily eating tools are a fork and knife, now comes the possibility of being accused of damaging the environment by using disposable chopsticks. According to the February 8 edition of the Wall St. Journal ( activists in China are protesting the use of these common chopsticks claiming their manufacture and use causes environmental damage. The chopstick Industry, employing about 100,000 and manufacturing approximately 63 billion pair annually aim say their claims are inaccurate and focus on the jobs created. Once considered a practical tool, insuring that the chopsticks one used were clean and safe for some they are now a symbol of casual waste.

In response to the debate an industrial designer has created a pair of collapsible, portable chopsticks. B.Y.O. C. - Bring Your Own Chopsticks.

What will come next as the debate continues? No matter whether you consider disposable chopsticks a health conscious convenient tool, or a wasteful habit destroying forests, if you’re heading to China you’ll still need to master the art of eating with these simple tools. BYOC?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Why This Blog?

We are repeatedly told Be Global, Act Local.  Magazines are filled with stories of companies that do it well and others that don't. But what does the instruction really mean?  To me its more than selecting the local celebrity for an advertising campaign or hiring local managers rather than brining in expats.  
Act Local means Think Local.  Know the place, its history, the business culture - not simply the observable actions like greetings and meal times, but the concepts that shape the behaviors we see.  How is the question ' Who Am I? answered.  An individual or member of a group?  What's valued - truth or diplomacy?  Tasks or people?  Understand how people view the world, what's valued what isn't.  Then you can begin to Think and Act Local (and be Global).
In this blog I'll share thoughts, observations, stories that bring to life the concepts of global and local as well as some practical issues from travel to dinner as a business tool.
Join me for the adventure of working with the world.  Please send your comments, your stories and observations.  Post a comment here or reach me directly at