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   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