Multiculturalism In Corporate America:
Who Benefits, And Why Should I Care?
We've reached the age in which global structures have become the key components of any viable corporation. Large or small, corporate America is now recognizing the importance of reaching out to other nations. No longer an issue of whether or not one will choose to become international, if you're in business, it's almost a fact of life. The United States itself has blossomed into a nation of some 103 cultures from around the world. As a result, we've become international right here at home.
To many people in America's corporations, the word "multicultural" has become synonymous with civil rights and affirmative action. Junior executives sent to multicultural and cultural diversity seminars frequently ask what multiculturalism has to do with them. And just as often, someone in the room will reply, "It's good business. It's the bottom line."
But multiculturalism is more than good business and the bottom line. From the marketing standpoint, it's natural to assume you'll want to learn some of the customs and societal bugaboos if you're marketing in a foreign land. Yet if you're plunging into international waters, you'd better know more than how to sink or swim. Doing business with just the bare essentials of what you think will be acceptable in another culture can be a costly lesson to learn!
In the American business world, we're inclined to rush, moving to a first name basis often by the second contact, and just as often, expecting to close hot deals in a matter of a week or two. But people in other parts of the world have developed their business relationships to a high degree. The most successful corporate leader might know a client's entire family -- from kids to the grandparents on both sides, and even know which of the kids has asthma -- before s/he closes that important sale. To those who are just now beginning to tread these waters, learning wha...