Take two completely ubiquitous retail outlets. Starbucks and the Chinese Takeway. You can find both of them just about anywhere in the world.

Starbucks is completely uniform. It's managed on a Roman military command and control structure from head office. The local management are arrogant and make no attempt to assimilate themselves into the local culture. They're supplies are managed by the regional head office who buys in bulk. Senior regional management are on a 2 year secondment so they put their kids in the local ex-pat school and hang out with ex-pats.

Contrast this with:

Every Chinese takeaway is different (while following the same formula). They're run by private entrepreneurs. While there is a wholesale support structure, that's also run by private entrepreneurs. The owners have no choice but to become part of the local culture because they depend on local suppliers. This makes them accomodating rather than arrogant. They live in the culture, their kids go to the local schools.

So we have the military machine vs the ant-hill. Centralised vs De-Centralised. Cultural imperialism vs Cultural assimilation. Startrek vs the Borg.

Now translate this into America vs China as they move into Africa to secure raw material supplies. I'm hearing stories that the Chinese are easier to deal with because even when they are part of large organisations back home, they behave like entrepreneurs in country. And entrepreneurs have to meet their business partners half way rather than trying to impose a foreign system and set of values on them.

To a certain extent I think both India and China have this quality. It's quite quite different from our Roman background here in the west. They operate as a chaotic, complex, mesh of 2 billion autonomous units, not as a pyramid control structure.

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[ 26-Aug-07 8:22am ] [ ]