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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 10:01 AM CDT

Doing Business Abroad

Remember to include intercultural relations in your business plan
2 Asian men
The worldwide machine vision market is growing rapidly. Skilled intercultural relations can help lessen unpredictable reactions that would put the best business plans in danger.
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Underestimating the impact of unconscious emotional reactions in business relationships and management can undo what could be a profitable and successful partnership.
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By Christel Paris-Bicking, Crossroads Intercultural Consulting

Let's begin with a joke.

The United Nations sent out a worldwide survey. The request: Please give your honest opinion about possible solutions to end the food shortage in the rest of the world.

That survey has been a disaster.

In Africa, nobody understood the meaning of food.

In Eastern Europe, nobody understood the meaning of honest.

In Western Europe, nobody understood the meaning of shortage.

In China, nobody understood the meaning of give your opinion.

In the Middle East, nobody understood the meaning of solution.

And in the United States, nobody understood the rest of the world.

The joke presents a number of intercultural stereotypes and dangerous preconceived ideas… But where there's smoke there's fire.

A recent bitter clash between French giant Danone (which makes Evian bottled water, among other products) and its Chinese Joint-Venture partner showed once again that even world-leading companies underestimate the importance of studying foreign cultures before implementing business development plans abroad. As the imaging industry continues to expand globally, intercultural relations will be a key to smooth relations. The American machine vision market, for example, is expected to grow by 17 percent this year, Europe by 3 percent and the rest of the world and Asia by 14 percent. The global machine vision market was $8.1 billion in 2006 and expected to grow to more than $15 billion by 2012.

Very often, the corporate culture, self-confidence and pride of the company's stockholders or executives are so strong that they believe that it is just enough to know the do's and don'ts of foreign business practices to be able to grow and succeed in foreign markets, that it is just enough to have a good product with a good price.

This is a very risky and exclusively rational approach of business-making that underestimates the impact of unconscious emotional reactions in business relationships and management. And that costs a tremendous amount of money (expensive legal conflicts, strikes, lays-offs, recruitment errors, delays in research and production, wasted marketing and promotion budgets).

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