Feb 5, 2007

Cultures and Knowledge

Heidi asks on my earlier post on the center of gravity shifting:

do you think the collaborative element evident in India is a product of India's culture (and other Eastern cultures as well). I've heard on a number of occasions, people's preference and desire to work in the East because of culture difference, despite their ethnic background. For example, business in Asia, for the most part is honor-based. So, if a CEO promises to form an alliance with you to your face he will keep his word. That is his culture. A concept as simple as breaking your promise is regarded highly as dishonorable. Where as in the US.. well OK. Let's be frank. How many families in the US actually take care of their grandparents and extended relatives. And by that I don't mean on holidays or birthdays.. I mean actual care under the same roof. Or if not, under the same regard as their immediate family members. See, the problem is that we have categories as "immediate" or "extended," which serves no other purpose than to deemphasize the importance of one group.

While it would be tempting to lay the secret of collaboration at the feet of Indian culture, I think the reason is much more prosaic. Collaboration is a lot about trust, and trust develops in proximity. People who have worked in virtual teams which are geographically dispersed would agree. A sense of identity develops far easier in finding things that are common and can be emphasised.

Indian businesses have seen CEOs and corporate houses who have bent the rules, and others who have stuck to the the correct and straight line.

Yes, the Eastern tradition is to focus on age and experience and therefore there is a tendency to treat the elders of the family better, and to see their accumulated knowledge as an asset. However, that is slowly changing too as is our tolerance with what is traditional is also being seen as what is limiting the speed of growth.

There are no easy answers I guess to Heidi's questions.

In a response to the same post Chris Gould (a recruiter with Accenture, and he links to their blog!) says their focus on US recruiting hasn't been slowing. I guess that's great news for consultants in both countries :-)