Globalization, which propels large multinational companies like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Starbucks, etc., across the world can seem like a powerful, almost irresistible force. This is particularly the case across the emerging and frontier markets where many independent companies like THP may have only recently become national leaders, wondering how they can fend off these global giants who have suddenly become interested in their country.
While globalization has in essence “flattened” the world, making products, services, supply chain partnerships, cultures, etc. more accessible no matter where you are—there are still very significant differences between each of our cultures—particularly between East and West. With Asia rising to become more of a force, Western-style multinationals are being forced to come up with new strategies in order to successfully navigate these markets.
East and West
The essence of what makes the East different than the West is something I’ve addressed in previous posts. While many of the principles I’ve addressed are likely just as important to Western businesses, there are nuances that make the Asian culture and its approach to business different.
Consider how we approach our work-place environment. In the West, great emphasis is placed on the word “teamwork.” But this has tended to be an alien concept in Vietnam and throughout much of Asia. It’s not that we don’t try to achieve a similar outcome, but it’s presented and understood in a much different way.
This core value of “owning your work” focuses on individuals taking responsibility for their work and their individual contribution. For the Asian culture, it’s understood that success or failure is due to personal effort—not external factors. There are two main reasons the Western notion of “teamwork” is so difficult to implement within Asian companies:
- First, the Vietnamese find teamwork particularly difficult, because we are such a self-reliant people. History has made it so. Put too much trust and reliance in other people, and you will end up being subjugated by them. The plus side of this self-reliance is that Vietnamese people are very entrepreneurial. Most people have their day job and their small business on the side. Walk down the street, and you will see that nearly every house will have been turned into some small business or other.
- Second, Asians are renowned for not wanting to lose face and for their attachment to hierarchy. Everyone needs to understand what someone else’s status is. In the corporate world, this manifests itself as a desire to respect those at a more senior level and receive respect from those at a lower one. This attitude is prevalent in Vietnam, although it is not as strongly rooted in the culture as it is in Japan, Korea, and to a lesser extent, China.
This is just one example of a fundamental principle that manifests itself quite differently in Western and Eastern cultures. It’s this and other differences that are at the core of many successful Asian businesses. Learn about other values founded in Asian culture that create, build, and grow business here.