Showing posts from April, 2010

Thinking (not acting?) outside the box

Have you wondered why certain sayings are phrased one way versus another? Why do we NOT say "act outside the box?" and instead push "thinking" to venture out? Coloring outside the lines is said to be good at times..but we are never told to redraw those lines. Boxes can be turned inside out but it's still the box. We need that box.

"How does one do it? " asked a student the other day; "we try so hard to get away from the 'structure' but it's so dominant and's hard to escape!" Students already referring to "society" as "structure" means that she is paying attention in class...not bad, not bad at all! Taking theory and applying it to one's life to grapple about one's own existence is even better.

This is the age of the tortured soul. It is a privilege to pause, ponder, probe.
It is an achievement to recognize that we' re within a particular confinement. If we know the rules, we can play wit…

Bow when I bow: Business etiquette all the way?

Can't blame corporations for packaging culture. Anything to make a deal. It's that slight edge that you get in knowing that you cannot discuss business over dinner in Argentina or that it's not done to address your Korean client by her first name. Nuances infuse relationships. Missed nuances apparently can cost you your contract or sour your business partnership. In fact, management gurus and experts have done a great job in infusing paranoia about cultural misunderstandings in the business circuit...

"...the single greatest barrier to business success is the one erected by culture." Edward T. Hall and Mildred Reed Hall

Metaphors lace this paranoia:

"Culture is like an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg is easy to see. This includes the visible aspects and do's and taboos of working in other cultures. The remaining huge chunk of the iceberg hidden below the surface includes the invisible aspects of a culture such as the values, traditions, experiences and beha…

Culture for Dummies?

This is no joke. Believe it or not, there are "Culturally sensitive Quizzes" out there to train you to perform better in business across different cultures and nations. It's so stereotypical that it should crack you up (although obviously not intending to do so); Try it out.

Check out Kwintessential

QUESTIONS SAMPLE: Cross-Cultural Quiz on Islam

1. On which day would you expect to get least business done in Muslim countries?

2. Which of these would make the best gift for a Muslim client?
Silk tie

3. The teachings of Islam emanated from which modern day country?
Saudi Arabia

4. During negotiations your counterpart keeps saying 'inshaAllah' (God willing) to each of your requests. What should you do?
Accept the 'inshaAllah' mentality
Demand some firm commitments
Repeat the phrase but try and establish some concrete agreements

5. What is the name of the holy book in Islam?

Stereotypes make the world go flat!

I love stereotypes! Granted, it ruffles quite a few feathers and often for good reason. The Italians want you to know that they're more than just a bowl of pasta; the Dutch insist that they don't walk around in clogs holding tulips to their face; and the Canadians well, would appreciate it if you stopped calling them American.

We expend much time and energy on how stereotypes offend. However, it's time for a new kind of PR for stereotypes.
So I proclaim the following: STEREOTYPES BOND US TOGETHER


So listen up...

One day, Paddy Irishman, Paddy Englishman, and Paddy Scotsman walked into a pub together. They proceeded to each buy a pint of Guinness. Just as they were about to enjoy their creamy beverage, three flies landed in each of their pints and got stuck in the thick head.

Paddy Englishman pushed his beer away from him in disgust.

Paddy Scotsman fished the offending fly out of his beer and continued drinking it as if nothing had happened.

The Irishman, too, picked th…

On the Internet, EVERYbody knows you’re a dog

Online anonymity is overrated.


The "real" and the "fictitious" identity socialize in cyberspace.

Deception online may not be a morality issue when everybody is doing it; when everybody EXPECTS you to do it; and sometimes, mass deception becomes fantasy, when everybody WANTS you to do it.

When it becomes routine social practice, it becomes the norm.

Masquerades become carnivals, become temporary and recurring pleasure. "tootsie23@" tells her story for everybody to read. Is it really relevant to know how authentic "tootsie23@" is? Can we use the same moral compass that we apply to books and journals, newspapers and all other kinds of conventional print to online pontifications? The sacredness of print reminds us of its age, its stature - it provides the comfort zone.

Even in masquerades, when we reveal ourselves in plain sight, we are still part of the carnival. We are still playing a part. As long as the carnival is going on, we are seen in c…


An enthusiastic student comes into my office - he's one of those die hard Apple fanatics, the lifeblood of this industry. This fruit lover makes a compelling case to transform academia for the students through simple Apple software. He wants to tape the lectures through his camcorder and upload it on the Apple video site for students to watch and learn. He argues (point well taken) that students can refresh their memories on certain concepts covered in class and basically grasp material better. He says that he gets that universities are inherently bureaucratic and for immediate action, students need to take initiative. He promises that students will appreciate getting this material through a range of mediums and applications -podcasts to Facebook, listening as they commute or when cramming in study groups.

Yes. So true. Although nothing original here actually. It's already being done in some universities, albeit the sexy brands expanding their reach through new media. TED speak…

Battle of the Wolves? Dances with the Bulge?

You trade coffee, tea, spices, trade music, art, film; human traffic as commodity and more...what I don't expect is the import of national histories for tourism! Let me explain my bafflement here. In the Ardennes mountain region of Belgium, one with a long and complex history where the battle of the Bulge for instance took place, it has a little town. Within that town, a monument dedicated to the victims of the Ardennes offensive sits right next to a 'Red Indian' paraphernalia shop, one that has been around for apparently several years. Instead of battle of the Bulge souvenirs, you can take home feathered headdresses, cowboy hats and Indian chokers...

History rewritten through urban planning and design!

Kitsch me if you can...

Easter weekend is here.

Out hops the stuffed bunnies in all shapes and sizes; they hang from windows, perch happily at mall cafes and frame chocolate isles of supermarkets. Its not a sin to be furry and cute. Its their duty. Their presence is considered appropriate to mark this ritual event. In fact, we expect kitsch to be at places of common ground only to reinforce our social distance from it. The masses allow for the elite to exist.

So it is no wonder that one feels unnerved when one sees these creatures in their furry glory infiltrate your exclusive moments at what you consider a classy Belgian restaurant. While a real French speaking hostess serves a four course meal and punctuates your dinner at strategic times to make sure your wine glass is full, you see Easter kitsch seep through EVERYWHERE!

As you sit by the window, a wonderful landscape view of the hills of the Ardennes is tainted by a nest of eggs on your table; a humble potted plant is violated by gaudy yellow feathers sh…