Required Adaptation

Required Adaptation

Knowledge of the management style – that is, that business culture, management values, and business methods and behaviors – existing in a country and a willingness to accommodate the differences are important to success in an international market. Unless marketers remain flexible by accepting differences in basic patterns of thinking, local business tempo, religious practices, political structure, and family loyalty they are hampered, if not prevented, form reaching satisfactory conclusions to business transactions. In such situations obstacles take many forms, but it is unusual to have one negotiator’s business proposition accepted over another’s simply because that one understands us.

Besides an analysis of the need for adaptation, it reviews differences in management styles and ethics and concludes with a discussion of culture’s influence on strategic thinking.

Adaptation is a key concept in international marketing and willingness to adapt is a crucial attitude. Adaptation, or at least accommodation, is required on small matters as well as large ones. In fact, the small seemingly insignificant situations are often the most crucial. More than tolerance of an alien culture is required. Affirmative acceptance, that is, open tolerance of the concept different but equal is needed as well. Through such affirmative acceptance, adaptation becomes easier because empathy for another’s point of view naturally leads to ideas for meeting cultural differences.

As a guide to adaptation, all who wish to deal with individuals, firms, or authorities in foreign countries should be able to meet 10 basic criteria: (1) open tolerance, (2) flexibility, (3) humility, (4) justice / fairness (5) ability to adjust to varying tempos, (6) curiosity / interest , (7) knowledge of the country, (8) liking for others, (9) ability to command respect, and (10) ability to integrate oneself into the environment. In short, add the quality of adaptability to the qualities of a good executive for a composite of the successful international marketer. It is difficult to argue with these 10 items. As one critic commented, they border on the 12 Boy Scout laws.

Degree of Adaptation:

Adaptation does not require business executive to forsake their ways and to local customs; rather executives must be aware of local customs and be willing to accommodate to those differences that can cause misunderstanding. Essential to effective adaptation is awareness of one’s own culture and the recognition that differences in others can cause anxiety, frustration, and misunderstanding of the host’s intentions. The self reference (SRC) is especially operative in business customs. If we do not understand our foreign counterpart’s customs, we are likely to evaluate that person’s behavior in terms of what is acceptable to us.

The key to adaptation is to remain American but to develop an understanding of and willingness to accommodate the differences that exist. A successful marketer knows that in China it is important to make points without winning arguments; criticism, even if asked for, can cause a host to lose face. In Germany, it is considered discourteous to use first names unless specifically invited to do so. Instead address a person as Herr, Frau or Fraulein with the last name. In Brazil do not be offended by the Brazilian inclination to touch during conversation. Such a custom is not a violation of your personal space but rather the Brazilian way of greeting emphasizing a point, or making a gesture of good will and friendship. A Chinese, German or Brazilian does not expect you to act like one of them. After all you are American not Chinese, German, or Brazilian and it would be foolish for an American to give up the ways that have contributed so notably to American success. It would be equally foolish for others to give up their ways. When different cultures meet, open tolerance and a willingness to accommodate each other’s differences are necessary. Once a marketer is aware of cultural differences and the probable consequences of failure to adapt or accommodate, the seemingly endless variety of customs be assessed. Where does one begin? Which customs should be absolutely adhered to? Which others can be ignored? Fortunately, among the many obvious differences that exist between cultures, only a few are troubling.