Cross-Cultural Management
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Cross-Cultural Management

With Insights from Brain Science

Mai Nguyen-Phuong-Mai

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eBook - ePub

Cross-Cultural Management

With Insights from Brain Science

Mai Nguyen-Phuong-Mai

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About This Book

Cross-Cultural Management: With Insights from Brain Science explores a broad range of topics on the impact of culture in international business and vice versa, and the impact of businesses and individuals in shaping a culture. It provides critical and in-depth information on globalization, global/glocal leadership, cross-cultural marketing, and cross-cultural negotiation. It also discusses many other topics that are not typically found in the mainstream management textbooks such as diversity management, bias management, cross-cultural motivation strategies, and change management.

While most literature in the field is dominated by the static paradigm, that is, culture is fixed, nation equates to culture, and values are binary, this book takes a different approach. It regards national values as a first-best-guess and balances it with an introduction of the dynamic paradigm. This school of thought posits that culture is not static, context is the software of the mind, opposing values coexist, change is constant, and individuals can develop a multicultural mind.

A unique feature of this book is the contribution of an interdisciplinary approach. It's the first textbook of cross-cultural management that incorporates latest findings from the emerging discipline of cultural neuroscience and evolutionary biology in the discussion. Such a holistic approach is meant to help readers gain a deeper and broader understanding of the subjects.

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Information

Publisher
Routledge
Year
2019
ISBN
9781351396622

1Globalization

Evolutionary Roots and Contemporary Version

Globalization is an interesting word to use in connection with cross-cultural management. For many, globalization is a powerful force that either (1) erases borders and creates a homogeneous global culture or (2) reveals borders as a result of differences being juxtaposed and clashing with each other. The former implies that cross-cultural management will slowly become redundant, and the latter emphasizes the essential role of cross-cultural management. The truth is, of course, everywhere or somewhere in between.
In this chapter, we will look at globalization from its deepest roots, that is, the evolutionary reasons why we have been consistently crossing more and more borders, reaching out for nonrelated strangers, and making our community larger and larger over time. As a result of this historical process, how does our world look today? What makes globalization so exciting, yet, of so much concern in our era? Do we live in a small global village or in a dynamic and divided world? What is the power of local cultures in a globalized economy? Why do international managers need to give an attentive eye to them? These are the questions that we will address in this chapter. We will also welcome insight from evolutionary biology, which will help to shed more light on the matter from different perspectives. After all, cross-cultural management is an interdisciplinary study, and so, we must integrate.

1.1 The Traditional Force of Globalization

Globalization is not new. Despite numerous wars and disputes, our species has never stopped to connect and form larger and larger groups. In the history of mankind, small tribes have constantly transformed into chiefdoms, city states, nation-states, empires, and collections of nations such as the European Union. The global village or globalization is simply a logical step of this continuous process. So what has driven this ancient process historically? We will go all the way back to the evolutionary root of our species to find out what, despite periods of withdraws and setbacks, has motivated us to reach out for others to create a bigger and bigger community.

1.1.1 The Nature of Humans

1.1.1.1 Are Humans Naturally Selfish?

Globalization as a process of crossing boundaries has to start with the cooperation between individuals, and with altruism—a behavior of reaching out to others even at one’s own personal cost. Biologists since Charles Darwin were puzzled because they could not properly explain how such behaviors could ever evolve in the world of natural selection. In the end, it is supposed to be a struggle for existence, a competitive battle that is gladiatorial in nature: Red in tooth and claw. Every individual is expected to look out for her/himself because your gain means my loss.
Darwin’s theory leads to the question of whether human nature is good or bad—something that has long divided theorists. Earlier scholars advocated the selfishness of the human mind, illustrated by popular phrases such as “law of the jungle,” “every man for himself,” “dog eat dog,” and “survival of the fittest.”1-2-3-4 Some philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes argued that cooperation is necessary, but because human’s nature is selfish, the only way of attaining cooperation as a social contract is through a coercive authority, and that cooperation has to be a covenant forced by the sword. This is considered the original role of governments (i.e., authority orders people to cooperate) and, to a certain extent, of religion (e.g., be good, or else, hellfire).

1.1.1.2 Capitalism is Natural Law

In 1799, Thomas Malthus published his Essay on the Principle of Population.5 The main argument is that population growth outstrips food production, and hence, population is naturally kept in check by poverty, famine, war, and low living standards. They are inevitable, and therefore, welfare programs such as helping the poor would only delay the catastrophe. At the time when the industrial revolution demanded more science and a new paradigm other than the Bible to guide research, Malthus’s writing was considered the beginning of Social Darwinism—a school of thought widely accepted in Western universities.
Proponents of Social Darwinism applied the biological idea to social sciences. Herbert Spencer invented the term “survival of the fittest” in 1852 and argued that governments should not interfere in human competition, stay away from attempts to regulate the economy, and let the invisible hand control the market. Later on, when Social Darwinism got its wild support in the United States, William Sumner, for example, proclaimed that millionaires are the product of natural selection,6 and Rockefeller said: “The growth of a large business is merely a survival of the fittest … a law of nature and a law of God.”7
In this context, laissez-faire policies were used to support for a competitive, ruthless, dog-eat-dog capitalism. Together with the Industrial Revolution, there emerged a large, underpaid, and exploited wage-earning class, and rich capitalists. In such a context, the concept of “struggle” and “survival of the fittest” was a useful justification for exploitation. Many continued to use the collapse of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries as a real-world confirmation of this core idea: Those who interfered with human selfishness would reap the whirlwind. A natural selection will weed out the weakest members, the less intelligent and less industrious of the society. Such thinking was later used to justify the eugenics movement, which has its most extreme manifestation in Nazi Germany and the selective breeding to improve the quality of the population.

1.1.1.3 Kin Selection Fosters Cooperation

However, recent studies have consistently proved that human nature is not naturally competitive.8-9-10-11-12 We are also cooperative, and there is an evolutionary base for it.
Let’s start with the most obvious: We are cooperative toward those who are genetically close to us—or the Hamilton’s rule for evolutionary success of altruism.13-14 In the following formula, c is the cost of the actor who performs the altruistic act, b is the benefit gained by the recipient of the altruistic act, and r is genetic relatedness between the two. The formula demonstrates the condition that an actor would assist another person, as long as the cumulative benefit to the recipient is greater than the cost to the actor. According to rumor, Haldane monumentalized this principle by declaring this in a pub: “I would lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins.” In evolutionary terms, it is a fair deal, because a sibling has the r factor = 50% and a cousin = 12.5%. Blood is thicker than water. From evolutionary point of view, kin selection makes a perfect incentive for cooperation. Actions that support my relatives benefit copies of my genes.
c < r b

1.1.1.4 Reciprocity Fosters Cooperation

We are not only cooperative toward those who share the same genes but also total strangers who share little to no genetic relatedness. Next to kin selection, the second strong force that binds all cooperative enterprise is fairness and reciprocity, that is, if you scratch my back, I will scratch yours. Resources are often limited, and naturally, we are cautious of who to share with, better be someone who is trustworthy and cooperative. Being considered trustworthy and cooperative is critical because it gives us an important currency called reputation. Good reputation grants us access to material and social rewards once trust has been won. This is so crucial that evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel concluded that humans compete to cooperate. In his words:
We had no choice but to become altruism “show-offs,” to compete with others for a slice of the cooperative pie. Our ultra-helpful nature is the altruism equivalent of a peacock’s tail, except that the peacock uses his tail to attract a mate, we use our altruism to secure the spoils of cooperation.15
This social currency is so beneficial that we even go an extra mile to gain it, by showing that we are willing to sacrifice or even die for it. Pagel used the social bonding from Sebastia Junger’s book War to illustrate this point. New soldiers who freshly joined the combat platoon were subjected to severe beating and humiliation, including officers. By enduring the beatings, new soldiers signaled that they are serious with the commitment, and the violent tests are a way to buy the fellows’ trust.16 If a soldier could not stand humiliation and violence at such a level, how can one expect her/him to sacrifice for others on the battlefield? Facing the enemy, the willingness to die for each other is the most effective strategy to keep each soldier alive. Evolutionary speaking, their bond was essentially not the love for the country or even the loyalty to their fellows. Rather, it is simply that they were individually more likely to survive when they were all prepared to die for each other. In essence, cooperation stemmed from reciprocal altruism is a selfish calculation for personal interests in the long run.

1.1.1.5 Cooperation is Instinctive

The third evolutionary basis for cooperation has a different argument: It’s obvious that we are often cooperative even when no one is watching, even when we have nothing to gain. If we only care about reputation, we should rob, rape, free ride whenever we are sure that doing so is safe. We would not vote, or help a stranger anonymously because there is no reputation effect involved. This line of argument leads to an alternative theory of cooperation: Humans have evolved this behavior and developed a cultural system that is extremely inhospitable to sociopaths, who are nice only when others are looking. The end result is that humans have become a cooperative species by nature,17 while sociopaths’ population is kept as a small minority. This cooperative system is controlled by social values: We punish those who exploit, praise those who sacrifice...

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