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We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.Albert Einstein

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Fish Can’t See Water

Fish Can’t See Water

All companies are influenced by their culture of origin. How can we better understand the national traits that influence our practices, often without us being aware of it?

Author(s): Kai Hammerich, Richard D. Lewis

Publisher: Wiley

Date of publication: 2013

Buy this book [amazon.com]


International companies often underestimate their cultural heritage. Indeed, they do business across the globe; their customers themselves are international; their employees are educated at international schools and used to working in a multicultural context. So, they appear very “global.”

However, all businesses are influenced by their culture of origin, including companies like Nokia, Coca-Cola or Procter & Gamble. These subtle influences, often inherited from the history of their founding and from their major leaders, have a part in shaping their operational and strategic culture. But just as fish cannot see the water in which they swim, companies are often no longer aware of this cultural heritage. Only in times of crisis or when problems arise—for example, when a company tries to penetrate an emerging market—do these implicit imprints crystallize.

The authors invite us better understand the national traits that influence our practices. They analyze the case of large companies like Nokia or Austin Motors to demonstrate the importance of these influences and how this phenomenon can, at certain points in the development of the business, undermine or support its success.

An interesting book, though rather conceptual. The most concrete part, at the end of the book, gives some interesting direct advice for managers who must participate in multinational leadership committee meetings or negotiate with foreign investors.