Sunday, May 21, 2006

The World Really is Flat

I am listening to some terrific Irish music performed by a group called Ciunas ( I had the great opportunity of hearing them in person a few weeks ago. What's amazing about this group is that all the performers are young Americans!

Upon hearing them, I marveled that this group of performers could have learned the multi-faceted aspects of Irish music in such tremendous depth. I know this may not surprise everyone -- there are certainly a lot of similar examples. But they know the history, the euphonics, the instruments, etc. Not just well enough to play the music, but also well enough to compose pieces in the same mode.

I was really struck when I heard this group that the world really is flat. I think this is a permutation of what Thomas Friedman means (, because in today's environment there is such realtime access to worldwide cultures!

This has vast implications on the way companies communicate. At Roeder-Johnson, we work with companies that simultaneously need to describe their leadership to American investors and customers as well as to Europeans, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Indians and many other countries. On the one hand, you can argue (as we have for decades) that communicating with each culture needs to be done by people who are native or at least intimate with that culture. But what's a small company to do when it can't afford the time or other resources to customize all of its communications to each different culture?

This is a complicated question. But I will take a shot at it:

-Be respectful of different cultures and what they consider to be important;
-Prioritize: that is, understand which are the most important cultures to which communications should be truly customized;
-Step above details of the story and try to communicate universal story that can be appreciated multiculturally;
-Educate about issues not just about specs (though don't pontificate);
-Listen and respond to specific feedback;
-Work with natives where it's necessary.

This is a new discipline -- communicating with the entire world all at once. We will all learn how it works over time. But, for now, there's going to be some trial and error along the way!


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