Managing cultures in a flat world

Thu Jul 2, 2009 1:01pm EDT
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By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) - In boardrooms across the world, executives speak a common language, wear similar suits and peck at the same model of BlackBerry.

But under the surface lurk deep cultural differences that separate people from different countries and backgrounds.

People who work in virtual teams, dispersed in far-flung offices and relying on e-mail and telephone for communication, face an even greater challenge.

Bridging these divides is the subject of two new books: "Managing Across Cultures" (McGraw-Hill, $34.95), published in April, and "How to Manage in a Flat World" (FT Press, $24.99), a U.S. edition first published in Britain in 2007.

Catching cultural clues is harder than it appears and, once caught, difficult to overcome, both books say.

"The distinguishing characteristics of deeply held beliefs are often invisible," warn Charlene Solomon and Michael Schell in "Managing Across Cultures."

This is even true when a group of people are speaking the same language.

"Beware, where English is spoken well or is the mother tongue, much can still get 'lost in translation,' because the assumption is 'we all understand one another,'" write Susan Bloch and Philip Whiteley in "How to Manage in a Flat World."   Continued...

<p>The book "Managing Across Cultures" (McGraw-Hill, $34.95), is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/McGraw-Hill/Handout</p>