Tuesday, October 11, 2011

We Need Business Anthropology Education

(Editorial Commentary)

The increasing attention and interest in business anthropology have not yet resulted in a clearer definition of business anthropologists as a distinctive professional group. In this volume of IJBA, Barry Bainton suggests the term “career anthropologist” to define a group of people occupying mixed positions between the traditional academic researcher, the business teacher, the private consultant practitioner, technical staff and other members of the business milieu. Clear boundaries of the professional group of business anthropologists are hard to give because of their multiple paradigms and perspectives. Business anthropologists tend to adapt to business and sector cultures, as there is a large variety of different fields, roles and positions (Serrie, 1984; Baba, 1986; Jordan 1994).

Clients do not always recognize the competences of the career anthropologist. In return, anthropologists often find it hard to sell their professional qualities to the business world. Anthropologists have been trained to both distance themselves from their own society and trained not to be fully assimilated in the local cultures which they take as the object of study. This dual position posits anthropologists in a privileged “in-between” position, in which they can serve a fundamental role for corporations as translators of local markets, expert on customers’ behavior and observers of culture at the work floor. On the other hand, greater distance from one’s own society also makes it harder for some anthropologists to strategically present their “in-between” position as a business asset. Paradoxically, praised competences of anthropologists such as emphatic understanding, flexibility, cultural sensitivity and knowledge of local culture and language seem not to come across the right way when anthropologists apply for jobs in business. In many cases, anthropologists trying to make it to the business world do not survive the rivalry with other professionals coming from organizational psychology, public service, economics etc. Anthropologists have difficulties aligning their competences with the needs of business organizations. In our opinion, we need to do much better than we have done so far in terms of preparing anthropologists for the business job market.
Business anthropologists working in academia are not extremely visible to the anthropological community at large, in part due to their infrequent writings in academic journals. There are different reasons for this, some being the shortage of practice-oriented journals, time/resource limits and company restrictions. There are other reasons why business anthropologists remain invisible as a professional group in the larger world of academia. Bainton observes a division between academically-oriented research anthropology and applied/practitioner research anthropology, shifting toward the creation of two separate disciplines. Here, the research practice of academic anthropologists and the research practice of business-oriented anthropologists seem to exist at cross-purposes. While the former is directed towards an academic audience and towards publication in higher-rank journals, the latter is pressed by clients and management to come up with practically oriented, prescriptive solutions that help the organization in its cultural problems.

We are still recruiting anthropology students with the idea of pursuing a traditional career in the academic world; however, an overwhelming majority of the students we recruited will not become academics but to find their way into business (e.g. Tett, 2005). Conversely, we do not train them to enter the labor market. We are training new generation of anthropologists in a rather traditional fashion at a time when market needs for innovation are higher than usual. Given the opportunities of a market seeking innovation more than usual, we argue that we need business anthropology education to support our students job-hunting in the world of business. We argue further that we can apply the theories and methods of anthropology into business practice and thus help business firms, large or small, domestic or international, to become more effective and profitable (Tian 2010).
The significance of business anthropology education has triggered many universities to launch new programs with business anthropology curricula. For instance, recently, the VU University in Amsterdam, one of many other universities and colleges in the U. S. and Europe to do so, began occupational training of business anthropologists. Such training concerns groups of anthropology students with a background in anthropology, organizational studies and marketing. For many of these students it was the first time that they understood how to use anthropology in a job application, while making genuine contributions with it. Unfortunately, for many years, we have told them that academic lectures should not mention jobs, as it was a common myth that someone trained in anthropology would never find a job at all. Such myth no longer holds water in contemporary times. Business anthropology education has gained a role of importance in business schools with many business faculty members currently applying an anthropological approach to their business education programs (Tian, Lillis, van Marrewijk, 2010).
In this new issue, we include seven papers show the unique augmentation of anthropology to business and the interesting interface of academia and practitioners. The first contribution is a clear example of the fruitful collaboration of academics and practitioners. Dr. Jaap de Heer of the VU University, Amsterdam, works closely together with Andrew Jenkins, a rural development specialist working at BRAC, a large development organization in Bangladesh. They share extended experience in Bangladesh in the fields of strategy development, organizational change and adaptive water governance. In their paper, they describe how local sustainable water management is being introduced in Southern Bangladesh to improve living conditions of Bangladeshi people by means of a revitalization process. Their case shows how Dutch-Bangladesh cross-cultural collaboration resulted in a hybridization of Dutch concepts of water managements mixed with Bengali practices. As a result of this hybridization, Bangladesh started a pilot project for the introduction of participatory water management.
The second contribution, entitled “Vitamin Practices and Ideologies of Health and the Body” is a very interesting example of the intersection between anthropology and medically based consumer behavior. In this article, Dr. Maryann McCabe and Antonella Fabri examine vitamin consumption practices among U.S. consumers in order to understand the cultural beliefs and values that motivate increased assimilation of vitamins into the national diet. Using anthropological insights of people like Malinowski and Frazier, who perceive vitamin consumption as a manifestation of a magical connection between the mind and the body, McCabe and Fabri reframe vitamin consumption as a matter of symbolic capital invested in the body.
In the third contribution, Dr. Pedro Oliveira advances an essay on the intersection of business anthropology, user-experience and design thinking. In his article, Oliveira joins a recent growing attention for space and spatial settings in matters of user-experience. Through an ethnographic account of his personal experience entering and living in Notting Hill, West London, he uncovers the importance of space and place in the construction of identity. He describes a process of growing gentrification in Notting Hill leading the new cultural elites to move to Ladbroke Grove, the adjacent area, considered the “new place” to identify with. By connecting place and class struggle, the author both sheds light on the London riots of 2011 while ending with a series of research lines for business anthropologists concerned with the intersection of place, space, design thinking and user experience.

In the fourth paper, Luo Youmin provides us a detailed ethnographic study with the focus on the process of searching for good life in a traditional industrial-commercial area in South China after 1949. She tries to unravel the dynamic process of how the “good life” pursued by state gradually alienated from local people’s expectation. Her findings suggest that the process of pursuit of good life reflects how to perceive, image, and to make the modernity by the people in the Southern China. She argues that people have to strive for good life by themselves. Cultural tradition and daily experience have become a greatly important drive to impel them in the pursuit of good life. She addresses that good life means not only food and clothes, but also individual emotion, community cohesion and sense of belonging. Therefore, material and intangible affluence are equally important for local people. Luo’s study is very significant for us to understand the modernization process in rural China from a business anthropological perspective.
In their contribution, Dr. Tian Guang and Dr. Luis Borges explore an anthropological approach to matters of social marketing. Largely, social marketing verses on how to improve the overall quality of life through adopting marketing strategies and skills, without a primary emphasis on profit. A highly effective example of social marketing is the attempted elimination of smoking through an effective combination of TV campaigns, advertisements, billboards, and governmental laws. Tian and Borges translate the “Four P’s” of the commercial marketing mix, namely product, price, place and promotion, to a social marketing case. Such an anthropological approach helps social marketers to be able to identify the social and/or cultural factors that influence the behavior targeted for change while contributing to strategy formation. They argue that social marketing is one of the main domains where business anthropologists can intervene.
In the sixth paper, Dr. Barry Bainton discusses the wide variety of ethical conflicts of anthropologists in the business context. He defines “career anthropologists” as a mix of traditional academic researchers, business teachers, private consultant practitioners, and technical staff members of business enterprises. Career-oriented anthropologists have different status and roles from academically research-oriented fellows. Taking a historical perspective, Bainton explains how Boasian rules and principles have become the normative ethic for future generations and how the anthropological establishment has traditionally been focused on the ethics of academic research anthropology over the needs of “career anthropologists”. He suggests the creation of a new anthropology brand to account for the current market potential of professional anthropological services in government and private sector.
Zoe Yi Zhu of the University of Hong Kong writes about her comparative study of the management strategies of French hypermarket Carrefour, and Japanese general merchandise store Ito-Yokado in China. To capture greater market share, Carrefour and Ito-Yokado engaged in a fierce competition around opening new shops, yet not without studying the reasons for greater success of the French hypermarket. According to Zhu, Carrefour’s success in China is due to its unique strategy for adapting to the local situation. HR strategy has a close connection with market entry strategy here. Zoe studied how Carrefour’s decentralized human resources strategy includes the selection and training of local Chinese employees, while the Japanese remain in control of the headquarters to maintain the high quality of services for which the company is rewarded by its Chinese customers.
Finally, we include an ethnographic study on a group of sex workers in South China by Yu Ding. In her study, Ding discusses how marriage and intimate relations exert a long-term ongoing influence on these women’s rural-urban migrations and work choices, and how the highly developed sex industry in the coastal region poses difficulties, as well as creates opportunities, for them to rethink what they want in their intimate relations. Ding stresses that the sex business is a “special” kind of business based on mutual monetary (material) exchange, and yet involves more non-monetary issues.
The quality and scope of the articles submitted show the need for connecting academics and practitioners in the field of Business Anthropology. Only by fostering this connection can we carry on pushing business anthropology further in the field of education, hence creating the conditions for greater dissemination of our knowledge and practices. We continuously seek articles by anthropologically oriented scholars and practitioners on topics such as general business anthropology theories and methods, marketing, consumer behavior, organization culture, human resources management, cross cultural management etc. Regionally focused contributions are welcome, especially when their findings can be generalized. We encourage practitioners, students, community, and faculty members to submit theoretical articles, case studies, commentaries and reviews. Please send manuscripts, news notes and correspondence to: Dr. Robert Guang Tian, Editor, IJBA, via e-mail to ijba@na-businesspress.com, or rgtian@yahoo.com (Robert G. Tian, Daming Zhou, and Alfons H. van Marrewijk).


Sunday, September 11, 2011

The First International Conference of Business Anthropology (China)

The First International Conference of Business Anthropology (China)

May 17-20, 2012

The First International Conference in Business Anthropology (China) will take place in Sun Sat-Sen University (Guangzhou, Guangdong). We are currently inviting paper submission. This conference will consider critical and timely questions in the development of business anthropology. There are several purposes to our conference:
- To generate an exchange of ideas between scholars, practitioners and industry specialists in the field of applied and business anthropologies;
- To encourage a bridge building between the practitioner and the academic world;
- To provide a vehicle of communication for anthropologists working within the practitioner world;
- To provide a work forum around qualitative business research, and analysis , inspired by anthropological theory and methods;
- To encourage the sharing of issues among business professionals;
- To encourage business educators in adopting an anthropological approach in teaching practices

With these goals in mind, conference organizers are currently inviting submissions from established scholars and graduate students exploring any of the following topics and questions as they bear on the relationship between business and anthropology:
1) Inter-cultural consultancy, training and management;
2) Design anthropology and product development;
3) Consumer research;
4) Ethnography and organizations;
5) Marketing and competitive intelligence;
6) Human resources management;
7) Organization changes;
8) International business;
9) Economic anthropology;
10) Teaching and learning business anthropology;
11) Business anthropology development history;
12) Business anthropology case studies.

Proposals should include a 300-word abstract and a short CV and should be sent to (name of the presenter) at hsszdm@mail.sysu.edu.cn, cc to huangjinglin2511@126.com and rgtian@yahoo.com with “Business Anthropology International Conference” in the subject line. Final papers will be due on March 31, 2012.

CFP deadline: Dec. 31, 2011.

We have specially invited the following scholars, who confirmed to come pending on the final approval by the conference committee. The formal invitation letter will be issued by March 15, 2012
Dr. Marietta L. Baba, University of Michigan, USA
Dr. Allen Batteau, Wayne State University, USA
Dr. Ann Jordan, North Texas University, USA
Dr. Alfons van Marrewijk, VU University Amsterdam, NL
Dr. Belete Mebratu, Medaille College, USA
Dr. Brian Moeran, Copenhagen Business School, DK
Dr. Robert J. Morais, Weinman Schnee Morais, Inc., USA
Dr. Pedro Oliveira, IPAM Marketing School, POR
Dr. Timothy de Waal Malefyt, BBDO Worldwide Advertising, USA

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Cross Cultural Strategy in International Business Competitive Intelligence (4)

The Processes of Developing a Cross Cultural CI Program

To beat the competition in today’s globalised economies, it is necessary for firms involved in international business to design and develop a cross cultural CI program. Such a program should reflect the needs of the firms, facilitate the information processes, and assist the strategic decision-making by the management. The structure and the scope of cross cultural CI program will depend on the individual firm and their needs. Based on previous research (Robertson 1998) and our own experiences we will suggest that in establishing a formal international CI program cross culturally, a firm needs to follow an eight-phase process (Table 2).

Table 2. The Eight-Phase Processes of Cross Cultural CI Program
Steps Major Issues
Phase One: Define Requirements To be aware of cultural, social, and economic differences between the home country and the potential host country
Phase Two: Identify the Main Competitors To analyze the characteristics of the firm's industry in the world, then identify the first few major competitors, and locate the positions of those competitors in the industry worldwide with an emphasis on cultural issues.
Phase Three: Assess Resources To determine the existing information residing internally. Make sure it should be completed prior to the collection and analysis of external resources.
Phase Four: Assign a Leader To select the individuals who are keen on cross cultural differences, fluent in more than one language and able to listen for content without being strictly bound by context.
Phase Five: Set-up CI Program To define the objectives of the program and to make the budget for the program. It is important to separate the direct objectives from the indirect objectives.
Phase Six: International CI Structures To staff the team with consideration to cultural backgrounds. To develop a common language and an ethical framework for the cross cultural CI project.
Phase Seven: Collect Data and Analyze Data To learn as many details of the industry in the foreign country as possible; to keep in mind the cultural challenges can occur at any times and thus should be culturally sensitive.
Phase Eight: Present the Findings To keep the final presentations available and accessible only to the decision makers; failure to do this may lead a great loss in terms of intelligence properties.

Phase One: Define Requirements At this stage, the co-ordinator has to be aware of cultural, social, and economic differences between the home country and the potential host country. The seven basic questions posed earlier provide a good guideline for the issues that need to be addressed, and thus suggest research/analysis areas. It is suggested that regulatory and legislative differences between the targeted country and the home culture, as well as all related changes that affect the competitive market are critical components to include while assessing new markets’ and competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Contextual content, time prioritisation and sensitivity, as well as multi-tasking skills will deepen the analytical content and the effectiveness of the intelligence delivered (Robertson 1998).
Phase Two: Identify the Main Competitors For instance; a Canadian firm once hired one of the authors to conduct international competitive intelligence. According to the client’s needs, he first analyzed the characteristics of that company’s industry in the world, then identified five major competitors to the company, and finally located the positions of those five competitors in the industry worldwide with an emphasis on cultural issues. Based on the best information resources and his propounded analysis, he predicted what those five competitors were likely to do in the marketplace individually; and made some suggestions to the company as what actions should be taken to achieve a competitive advantage based on its cultural and social capitals. The result turned out to be excellent.
Phase Three: Assess Resources Company need to determine the existing information residing internally. An assessment of knowledge, expertise, foreign national employees, and on-site materials can prove beneficial in a gap analysis. Furthermore, expatriates who have returned from field trip can provide valuable sources of competitive intelligence. At this stage it is suggested that the strategies include interviewing experts who are familiar with the subject concerned and have lived, worked or studied in the country in question, as they can provide significant inputs in terms of cross cultural values. Evaluating internal resources should be completed prior to the collection and analysis of external resources (Robertson 1998).
Phase Four: Assign a Leader A person who is keen on cross cultural differences, fluent in more than one language and able to listen for content without being strictly bound by context should be the right candidate. In addition, the CI analyst needs to build an international network of professionals. This way, primary information can be readily obtained. Having analysed the information, the CI practitioner then has the duty to keep the organisation informed about the general state of their industry and competitors. Prescott and Gibbons (1993) suggest building a project-oriented approach, which means emphasising temporary involvement by different individuals “funded” by different interested managers.
Phase Five: Set-up CI Program Objectives and Budget are two dimensions needed to be addressed when defining the objectives. Separate direct objectives from the indirect objectives and distinguish the comprehensiveness of the assignments and the type of assignments for the CI program. According to Robertson (1998), the budget can sometimes dictate the number of trips that need to be made abroad. In addition to general administration expenses, the following needs to be considered: a) The acquisition of new physical sources (books, maps, periodicals); b) Additional part-time or full-time staff for collection and analysis; translation, and other aspects of the collection process; c) Potential or required training on cultural, trade or international business issues; d) Specialized conferences and/or association memberships; and e) Any on-site visits for collection of information.
Phase Six: International CI Structures In this stage, there needs to be an analysis of staff requirements for projects. If there are limited human resources, the CI analyst may need to cover the entire world. Robertson (1998) suggests that if the CI team is able to hire specifically for internationally-focused intelligence assignments, background and living experience in that culture may be preferable, but education and international orientation are the primary objectives. At the same time it is important to develop a common language for CI, an ethical framework for the collection of information including a code of conduct, skill-building workshops related to CI topics, and a vision of how CI fits with the mission of the firm (Prescott & Gibbons 1993). The code of ethics and conduct must be flexible and suitable to be used in different cultures and countries or it will be irrelevant. Moreover, the CI program needs to be able to counteract current threats and facilitate or establish a learning organisation. By so doing it will enable the firm to continue surviving even if the competitive conditions change.
Phase Seven: Collect Data and Analyze Data Prior to leaving for the international site a few things need to be arranged. Interviews with a variety of sources need to be set up to learn as many details of the industry in the foreign country as possible. Also, prepare information that can be exchanged when conducting interviews, as leaders recognise the value of trading facts. The CI analyst further needs to define the specific requirements and goals the visitation is designed to fulfil. While at the site, the CI practitioner needs to keep in mind the cultural challenges can occur at any times and thus should be culturally sensitive. The person should have an intimate knowledge of the effects of social, cultural, and political factors on market performance along with more traditional reliance on financial, business, and economic factors to gather relevant and worthy material. Failure to understand the social and political dynamics can lead to wasted time, resources, and money (Werther 1997).
Phase Eight: Present the Findings Having acquired, interpreted, analysed and transformed the information, the last remaining step is to distribute or disseminate the intelligence. The CI program needs to be designed to deliver proficient and complete solid analysis to people who can act on it. It has to assist in making timely, effective and competitive decisions. There might be different formats in terms of presentations but the fundamental content should be basically the same. It is up to individual CI professionals, according to management preferences, to decide what types of formats are the best for presenting the findings and recommendations. One important point for all the CI professionals to keep in mind is that the final presentation be available and accessible only to the decision makers; failure to do this may lead a great loss in terms of intelligence properties. We would also like to suggest that CI professionals should not over estimate the cultural sensitivity and awareness by the managers, as such to give them certain amount of education in terms of different meanings cross culturally.


In today’s highly competitive global village, knowledge and information have to be analysed and converted into intelligence to be effective and worthwhile. It is important for any company to know its competitors in terms of their products, their distribution channels, and their marketing strategies from a cross cultural perspective. This is particular crucial in these cases where companies produce similar goods and compete directly for the same market. Only with a competitive intelligence program to supplement its international marketing can a firm be assured success in the global market.
If competitive intelligence as a dynamic business function is a recent function, the global CI program cross culturally is just in its introduction stage. At this time both academic scholars and business practitioners are lacking theories and practices to consult; much more works need to be done to maturely develop the global competitive intelligence function. Our experiences and practices demonstrate that CI alone will not guarantee success in today’s highly competitive, global business environment. However, if CI program conducted cross culturally, in some form, is not a part of the decision-making process, sooner or later a company will lose a crucial marketplace battle to a competitor. We hope our research can be useful for all those who are interested in either research about or practice in the fields of global competitive intelligence.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Opportunities and Constraints of On-line Information

Cross Cultural Strategy in International Business Competitive Intelligence (3)

The advancement of technology has had some very positive effects on this industry. The communication superhighway or the Internet, apart from reshaping the business environment, is providing benefits to CI practitioners. The Internet not only makes it easier to obtain quality secondary and some primary information as well as providing value to existing products or services; it also helps in the development of competitive business intelligence cross culturally (Emery and Tian 2003, Graef 1997, Tian and Emery 2002). Another use of the Internet is what termed as “collaborative intelligence”. This refers to the process where CI professionals are teamed up with colleagues in other divisions to leverage the firm’s intellectual capital by helping design and publish “knowledge bases”. At the same time, it is a way of identifying and developing ways to overcome hurdles to information sharing and collaboration. Educating senior executives about the Internet, and authoring “learning modules” to help other employees learn information-seeking skills is another function of collaborative intelligence program (Calof 1997).

The problem with the Internet is the difficulty of determining the quality of the source, especially when such sources are only available cross culturally. Criticisms include those relating to standards for citing and classifying publications by subject, date, and origin; none of these practices are well established or enforced on the Internet. Another problem we are concerned in our practice is that over 90% of the information in the Internet is in English. This is an indication that the internet still has not being completely embraced/utilized extensively by the rest of the world (Tian and Emery 2002). In practice, it is unlikely that CI professionals alone could locate useful information for CI purpose, the collaboration between CI professionals and translators is necessary; this in turn increases the cost for conducting CI through the Internet. On the other hand, due to technological problems, many languages are not supported in the Internet yet; this limitation makes it difficult to dig out more specific information pertaining to foreign competitors.

Accordingly, we also need to conduct international CI by using other information channels. In fact, our experiences indicate that public and/or university libraries contain extensive amount of information. Books provide insights to the psyche of corporations as well as thought process of key-decision makers. In addition, magazines and periodicals can provide details on competitor’s actions. Trade journals, local and international newspapers also provide relevant and detailed information. We should not forget personal contacts for sources of international information. Relevant facts can also be gathered from the organisation’s own sales force, customers, trade shows and distributors.

Once the CI unit has collected, evaluated and analysed the raw data it needs to disseminate the information to the decision-maker. However, in most cases a comprehensive study also requires primary information, which may include surveys, interviews, observations, and word of mouth. In practice, after obtaining data from inexpensive secondary sources, the firm is in a better position to conduct field studies to acquire true details. After obtaining secondary information and detailed primary data, a firm has a holistic perspective, which can provide an advantageous lead. We suggest that CI practitioners establish strategic alliance cross-national and cross-cultural boundaries, so that the necessary information and in-depth analyses can be obtained when needed.

Subscribe to businessanthropologist

To be continued.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cross Cultural Strategy in International Business Competitive Intelligence (2)

A Critical Review of Current Practices

Business competition in the end is the competition in the marketplace. The traditional international or multinational approach to business concentrates largely on geographic markets, developing a distinct marketing mix for each market. Traditional approaches scarify experience curve effects that can be gained by using the same marketing mix in more than one market. Global business, in contrast, concentrates on product, emphasizing their similarities regardless of the geographic areas in which they located. However, it does not ignore differences; these differences are taken into account when implementing the marketing program. For instance, advertising is translated into different languages for different national markets; while different distribution strategies are developed for areas with different distribution structures (Emery and Tian 2003, Tian 2000).

All these business decisions should be based on clear understanding of the differences in cross-national boundary perspectives as well as in cross-cultural perspectives. By the same token all these differences need to be seriously considered when using CI programs in international marketing. Apparently the majority of current international CI practitioners neglect this sharp point. For instance, Griffith (1998) notices that many U.S. marketers are hard pressed to understand the French governments’ actions restricting retail store size, especially after the success of efficient supermarkets.

Certainly, if the U.S. marketers want to penetrate French supermarket they must need to know this information to avoid business loss.
The above elaboration does not mean that all current international CI practices are not on the right track. In fact many intensive exporters, as Calof (1997) among other scholars found, have been proficient in obtaining information cross culturally. These exporters are more likely to utilise any source of information than less intensive exporters; they try to understand the host country more in depth and to successfully implement international marketing strategies by considering cultural differences. For instance, success in the Persian Gulf required most American franchisers to adapt and be flexible in their operations and policy due to cultural sensitivity (Martin 1999).

In international CI practice, the more intensive exporters can also use personal contacts abroad for the most important sources of information. Anthropological approach in gathering information could be best applied in this type of practice (Tian 2004). For example, one of the authors once worked as an international business consultant for a Canadian firm. By applying his anthropological skills he used his personal connections/relations to search for useful information and helped the Canadian firm successfully develop a project in China. We termed this type of information resource as the social capital pool whose values are flexible depending on how individual organisations implement its business practice. There are some other successful international CI practices in the business world, but our primary purpose in this paper is to probe the opportunities and the processes in conducting international CI programs.

Subscribe to businessanthropologist

To be continued.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cross Cultural Strategy in International Business Competitive Intelligence (1)

In spite of the growing amount of international marketing, there exists little knowledge on how firms gather marketing information in the global arena cross culturally. This problem not only affects the effectiveness of firms in terms of international competitiveness, but also generates a negative impact on the efficient usage of the global marketing resources as a whole. For businesses to succeed internationally, it is necessary for them to incorporate a cross cultural competitive intelligence program into their international marketing. This paper will highlight the challenges and opportunities when performing international marketing using competitive intelligence.

Cultural Factors in International Marketing Competitive Intelligence

In international CI, obtaining information from foreign markets is essential for developing successful market entry or defensive strategies. The process is the same as that in the home market but the analysis has to consider the characteristics and nuances of the foreign environments, such as cultural issues (Tian 2000). Normally, companies fail in their entry into foreign markets due to serious errors and misjudgements concerning the social, cultural, and political environment. Obviously, conducting CI on a global basis is much more complicated than doing that domestically (Feiler 1999).

Prescott and Gibbons (1993) once identified five reasons for conducting CI internationally and/or cross culturally: 1) Countries vary in the types, timeliness, accuracy, and motives for data collection; 2) The attitudes concerning individuals attempting to collect data and the ethical standards for acquiring information vary from country to country; 3) The technologies for the production, storage, movement, analysis and timing of information vary dramatically across countries; 4) Language barriers are important for both the collection and analysis of information; 5) Country-specific idiosyncrasies need to be addressed. In an attempt to address country-specific qualities the CI analyst needs to consider culture. Definitely, cultural factors have a major influence on the result of the analysis.

It is important CI professionals avoid any possible cultural bias in their practice. The most cited cross cultural business research scholar Hofstede (1980) notes that ethnocentrism is present in most measures used in cross cultural research; as such he suggests that instruments should be developed cross-culturally. In fact, Hofstede even notes that ethnocentrism is common not only in research design and instrumentation, but also in data collection and in data analysis. He further indicates that translation and back translation are not always foolproof and depend on the skills of the translator. To overcome the cultural bias in cross cultural research Hofstede suggests that using a panel of bilingual readers familiar with the content matter is less costly and may be just as good as or even better than a pure back translation. Finally he suggests that quantitative analysis such as factor analysis is useful, but care must be taken to ensure that any differences are due to culture and not to other factors such as social status, sex or age, for examples.

Based on the previous studies conducted by Sheinin (1996) and Simpkins (1998) we would suggest 15 cultural variables to be considered by CI professionals from a cross cultural perspective (see table 1). The objective of the CI practitioner in a global setting is to research, to gather quality, accurate and relevant information to complete an analysis. If the analyst does not consider the above variables, serious errors in judgements can be made. The CI investigators may inadvertently impose their cultural bias or make culturally based assumptions, or may be oblivious to the perceptions of the host nationals to the individual CI professional's cultural conditioning. After all, the analysis based on a lack of cultural awareness may misinterpret the information and thus affect the effectiveness of strategic decisions.

Table 1. Cultural Variables Need to Be Considered
Variable Content
Action Is the culture relationship-centred where stress is placed on working for the experience rather then the accomplishment? Or is it more task-oriented where stress is placed on actions that achieve the goal?
Competitiveness Is more emphasis placed on competition for rewards, or co-operation for the benefit of life and relationships?
Communications Is the preference for explicit one-to-one communications, or more of an implicit dialogue and avoidance of conflict? Are communications formal, where emphasis is placed on protocol and social customs, or informal, where restrictions are dispensed with?
Environment Do they feel they can dominate it to fit their needs, should they live in harmony with it, or do they feel that their world is controlled by fate and chance?
Individualism Is the individual more important then the group, or are the needs of the individual subordinated to the group interests. Loyalty to self or society?
Structure A society may either lean towards order, with its predictability and rules, or flexibility, where tolerance of unpredictable situations and ambiguity are acceptable.
Thinking Does the culture favour inductive reasoning based on experience and experimentation, or deductive reasoning based on theory and logic?
Time Is there a concentration on one task at a time, with a commitment to schedules, or an emphasis on multiple tasks, with relationships being the most important? Is punctuality precise and fixed, or is it fluid and loose?
Power and authority The dominant views of authority versus subordinates. The power distance between individuals.
Union and management The extent of union-management co-operation to achieve a successful company
Social values The dominant view of wealth and material gain- attitudes toward and the desire for material wealth versus religious satisfaction, the good life or other non-material stimuli found more in traditional societies.
Risk view The view of risk taking as a measured calculation of anticipated success.
Change and innovation Do people in a society embrace and adapt to change which promises to improve productivity or do they maintain their basic faith in traditions or old ways of doing things?
Ethical values The view of ethical standards and moralities.
Gender The degree of masculinity vs. femininity.

Subscribe to businessanthropologist

To be continued.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A New Journal for Business Anthropology Is Launched

The very famous business anthropologist Brian Moeran, along with other well known business anthropologists, has launched a new journal entitled Journal of Business Anthropology. It is a great indication that business anthropology is growing. Below is the brief introduction of the journal that I copied from the journal's homepage for your information:

The Journal of Business Anthropology is an Open Access journal which publishes the results of anthropological research in business organizations and business situations of all kinds. Based on fieldwork, participant-observation and more general ethnographic methods, the journal’s articles, case studies, and field reports are designed to develop an understanding among students and academics more generally of a wide variety of business practices; to bring to bear theoretical contributions from anthropology and related disciplines that may guide business practitioners in their day-to-day working lives; and to encourage discussion of what does and what does not, constitute ‘fieldwork’ and ‘ethnography’, as well as how they may be carried out, in corporations and other kinds of business organizations. Through the variety of its offerings, the journal encourages reflection upon different ways of writing up and presenting research findings. These address a broad readership of researchers, practitioners, graduate students, and business people, for whom an in-depth understanding of organizational structures and interpersonal relations can help in the management of personnel, workplace design, and formulation of business strategies.

Click to visit JBA homepage

Monday, May 2, 2011

We sincerely invite you to submit your best work to IJBA

Dear Authors, Editorial Board and Advisory Board Members, Friends and Colleagues:

The International Journal of Business Anthropology Vol. 2 (1) has been published. All contents are freely available online
http://www.na-businesspress.com/IJBA/ijbagateway.html   You are welcome to read, download, or forward these articles to your colleagues and friends as you wish.  The authors for this issue please provide your mailing address to me so that we can deliver the hard copies to you. 
Our journal is indexed by UMI-Proquest-ABI Inform, EBSCOhost, GoogleScholar, and listed with Cabell's Directory, Ulrich's Listing of Periodicals, Bowkers Publishing Resources, the Library of Congress, the National Library of Canada, and Australia's Department of Education Science and Training. Furthermore, our journal has been affirmed as scholarly research outlets by the following business school accrediting bodies: AACSB, ACBSP, IACBE & EQUIS.

The journal seeks articles by anthropologically-oriented scholars and practitioners.  Regionally focused contributions are welcome, especially when their findings can be generalized.  We encourage the dialogues between the findings or theories generated from the field of business anthropology and the theories of general anthropology. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, general business anthropology theories and methods, management, marketing, consumer behavior, product design and development, knowledge management and competitive intelligence, human resources management, international business, etc.  We sincerely invite you to submit your best work to the International Journal of Business Anthropology.

All my best,
Robert Guang Tian

Subscribe to businessanthropologist

Monday, April 25, 2011

Business Anthropology Is a Growing Field of Study

Business Anthropology Is a Growing Field of Study

 Harry Wels

     Business anthropology is a growing field of study and an emerging professional market as this interesting book ‘Readings in Business Anthropology” will explain in much detail in the various parts and chapters. In a sense, it could be argued that ‘anthropology’ itself has become business. This is not unique to anthropology, as nowadays almost all universities, and the scientists and scholars it houses, must show serious business-sense to be able to stay in academia. This implies in neo-liberal terms that ‘growth’ is a sine qua non for disciplinary sustainability. It could well be that without the adjective of ‘business’, anthropology will have difficulties to grow and sustain itself as an independent discipline in the university.

 I remember vividly that in the second half of the 1980’s anthropology in the Netherlands, and more specifically at VU University Amsterdam, was suffering from a steadily decreasing numbers of students. To “apply” or link anthropological theoretical and methodological perspectives to “organization and management” was considered a good strategy to acquire a growth market in order to turn the tide. And it did! The study “Culture, Organization and Management,” as we labeled what was basically and in terms of its curriculum a study in business anthropology, attracted hundreds of students already in its first few years, and actually “saved” the anthropology department from closure. In that sense “business anthropology” proved its point.

     To my mind, the 1980s have been very important for giving “culture talk,” a concept I borrow from Mahmood Mamdani, in organization, management and economics a decisive boost. It was a time that economic successes in Japan were explained by many by referring to its particular cultural make up (later followed and copied by similar explanations about other “Asian Tigers”). It was the same time and age that corporate successes were increasingly explained by referring to so-called “strong” organizational cultures: a “strong” culture would boost your business performance.

Business anthropology courses and approaches started to flourish around the globe. The various waves and large numbers of students that followed in the wake of this particular “cultural renaissance” have now all found their ways into society and business and as (older) university staff; we regularly come across our alumni in various places and positions in the global corporate world. It is interesting to observe how many of them are basically spreading the message of their intellectual upbringing in business anthropology even further around the world by proclaiming the message that this book also radiates: business anthropology is the way to go in this globalised world; developing cultural sensitivity is good (for) business!   
     This edited volume is timely as it perfectly captures the essence of the applied character of business anthropology in the 21st century and at the same time is able to contextualize business anthropology in relation to its roots in the anthropological discipline in the 20th century, and in the process recalibrating its orientation. I applaud the editors of this volume for their initiative and I dare to recommend the book especially to every businessperson who would like to learn more about the business advantages of building cultural sensitivity in this globalized corporate world.

                                                                        April 2011, VU University Amsterdam

Friday, April 15, 2011

General Business Anthropology, A Book Review by Dr. Mahesh Ranjan Debata

General Business Anthropology
Robert Guang Tian, Michael P. Lillis, and Alfons van Marrewijk
Miami, FL
pp.612 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 978-0-9828434-0-6
Key Words: Business Anthropology, Consumer Behavior, Ethnography, Organizational Culture, Product Design,
Anthropology, the study of humanity and human behavior, has evolved more of an applied study in the modern era by developing a wide array of qualitative tools and techniques in order to understand people and their behaviour, and thus can aptly be called as the most scientific among all branches of humanities. Business anthropology, an important segment of anthropology, is a domain of liberal arts which offers employers/businesspersons the skills such as oral communication, written communication, interpersonal skills, problem-solving, and critical thinking, so that many critical problems can be sorted out. It is in this context, the textbook of General Business Anthropology by Robert Guang Tian, Michael P. Lillis, and Alfons van Marrewijk, gives a thorough analysis of a subject like business anthropology, its contributions towards the society in general and the business world and the policy makers in particular. This well composed book consists of as many as 13 chapters covering almost all the issues related to business anthropology, besides providing key and basic information about business anthropology as well as synthesizing research on a particular prominent theme in business anthropology.


At the outset, the authors give a broad view of business anthropology, which is a rapidly growing branch of applied anthropology characterized by a qualitative methodology and cultural sensitivity. The evolution of this important subject, its growth, downfall and resurgence are elaborated in such a manner that the reader will be able to know the historical details of business anthropology. Though traditionally, business administrators banked heavily upon hard scientific methods in their business management and operation practice, in the recent era, being inspired by the qualitative tools of social and cultural anthropology, they apply more qualitative methods, such as ethnography and participant observation. Now the methods of Business anthropology offer global perspectives and are contemporary in nature. Ethnography is associated with the anthropological tradition and has been increasingly used by researchers in the domain of social sciences.

Ethnography, which is distinct from other applied qualitative and quantitative research techniques, is dealt in details in Chapter 6. Ethnographic research, the authors argue, can be widely applied in the business world and resolve business problems. As one of the basic, and perhaps the best tool for innovation, it provides limitless opportunity for continuous product improvements. It is these areas that the book tries to delve into, and carries the large mandate it sets for itself well. While talking about participant observation, one of the important tools business anthropology uses at regular basis, takes place when a person attempts to function within a social situation in order to intuitively understand what is going on. In addition, the seminal contributions that anthropologists have made and should make within the business world are also fairly discussed.

A couple of chapters have been devoted to the issue of culture, which is a vital cog in the wheel of society. The cultural aspects dealt with it are relative to the fast changing world and has significant effects on cultural changes.  The authors argue that culture is deeply rooted in the life of organizational members, it exerts tremendous influence on a variety of day-to-day activities; they opine that culture can have a profound impact on organizational performance. From a practical standpoint, building an awareness of both visible and invisible manifestations of culture is an important first step in determining how to manage people. Organizational culture has been the focus of many change and intervention programs in corporations, where cultural change strategies have been applied with varying success. Thus, the role and position of anthropologists in cultural change programs is crucial in achieving positive results.

Companies are always on the lookout to increase sales, increase their market share and increase their profits. One of the ways to accomplish all this is to improve their products. Marketing, consumer behavior and product design are the essential ingredients of any business program today. The authors have dilated upon these three critical issues in separate chapters (from chapter 7 to chapter 9). Anthropology,  as  a  social  science,  emphasizes  individual behavior within cultural contexts  and with  reference  to shared  values, beliefs and values. Anthropological methods are widely employed in international, cross-cultural and social marketing. Anthropology is positioned to create actionable recommendations and interpretations regarding target markets by accumulating and further processing detailed qualitative information and interpreting this evidence with culturally relevant insights and theories. Anthropology sheds light on consumer behavior.

Anthropological and qualitative akin to it techniques provide ecient ways to investigate why consumers respond in the way they do. The development of new products is critical. Design strategies involve multidisciplinary knowledge and collaboration.  The challenges in today’s design industry provide good opportunities for anthropologists. A solitary chapter (Chapter 12) is devoted to entrepreneurship, which plays an increasingly important role in business and entrepreneurs are being dubbed as a major force to reckon with as far as the issues of innovation and change are concerned.    Anthropological   studies of entrepreneurship,   although relatively new, are making a significant contribution to anthropology,   business, policy science, leadership and economic   development. The unique perspectives and research methodologies of anthropologists, the authors argue, provide reliable and eective ways to study the process of entrepreneurship.

Since 1980s, the world has undergone spectacular changes due to technology advancement and an exponential increase in international travel and communication. International business provides profound opportunities for anthropologists with cultural sensitivity coupled with a strategic focus. The cultural implications of these transformations have compelled anthropologists to play their part, particularly during turbulent times. During this era of modernization, two vital issues competitive intelligence and knowledge management have assumed much significance. Competitive intelligence, which is a combination of secondary research and interviewing knowledgeable informants, have led to a better and thorough understanding of the various links and knowledge sources.  The authors have given a clarion call to business leaders and strategists to pay more attention to knowledge management, besides underscoring the need for the application of theories and methods of anthropology in the fields of competitive intelligence and knowledge management.

At the end, giving a discourse on business education and the future of business anthropology, the authors have concluded that while anthropology has made significant contributions to business world, they have not been as widely embraced by business. In an era when business executives increasingly view qualitative methods as legitimate, the authors expect that there will be a growing demand for business anthropologists from all kinds of business organizations. At large, human factors have been taken into account and a continuous research has been focused for the growth of business anthropology.

Since the authors of this book have presented useful information from various national and international sources, this book is one of the finest volumes available until date on business anthropology for a wide audience. This well documented volume would definitely cater to the needs of not only the policy makers, but also the students, researchers and academics working on business anthropology. The authors have done commendable job in bringing out this volume, particularly in the field of still neglected business anthropology studies.  We should work together to strengthen the study of business anthropology in the contemporary world given the importance of the subject.
Reviewed by Dr. Mahesh Ranjan Debata, Assistant Professor, Central Asian Studies Program, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India – 110067.