Journal of Social Sciences 6 (1): 99-112, 2010 ISSN 1549-3652 © 2010 Science Publications
Cultural Issues in the Business World: An Anthropological Perspective Michael P. Lillis and Robert Guang Tian Department of Business, Medaille College, New York Abstract: The significance of cultural influence on business has been widely recognized in both academic and business circles. A number of authors suggest that an anthropological approach is the most appropriate way to study cultural factors and assess their impact on an organizational environment. This investigation draws attention to several important cultural issues in business utilizing an anthropological perspective. It probes the relationship between culture and human behavior, between organizational values and organizational behavior, and identifies several effective methods for managing cultural differences that often permeate an organization’s workforce. Key words: Anthropology, culture and behavior, manage culture difference, organizational behavior INTRODUCTION The core for anthropology as a social science is about culture and its relationship with human behavior. Although there are many different definitions of culture by scholars from different fields, such as political scientists, historians, psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists and so on, the common points by crossfield scholars are clear. The essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas that are historically derived and selected and especially their attached values. On the one hand culture systems may be considered as products of action or as conditioning elements of further action. It consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievements of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts (Kroeber and Kluckhohn, 1952). More specifically, culture consists of traditional values and beliefs, ideas, customs, skills, arts and language of a specific group in a given period. Culture provides people with a sense of identity and an understanding acceptable behavior in the society. In the twentieth century, “culture” emerged as a concept central to anthropology, encompassing all human phenomena that are not purely results of human genetics. Specifically, the term culture to American anthropologists has two meanings: (1) the evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with symbols, it also refers to human capacity to act imaginatively and creatively; (2) the distinct ways that people living in different parts of the world classified and represented their experiences and acted creatively. Following World War II, the term became important, 99 although with different meanings, in other disciplines such as sociology, cultural studies, organizational psychology and management studies (Wikipedia, 2009). Anthropologists’ interest in culture studies is originally for academic purpose but quickly extends to business applications. The result of anthropological study on culture has been widely applied in various fields in real business world. In the real business world, a good understanding of cultural values in general and specific individual cultural characteristics in particular can lead to success in the global market and economy. Otherwise, cultural misunderstandings can be counterproductive for individual development, organizational effectiveness and profits, because cultural factors influence people motives, brand comprehension, attitude and intention to purchase. Therefore it is important that we clearly understand the fact that as members of the global marketplace, although our effectiveness depends on many factors the primary one among them should be the capacity to understand our cultural preferences and how they influence and are influenced by those from other parts of the world (Hofstede, 1980; Lillis and Tian, 2009; Charles and Tian, 2003). Cultural factor plays an important role in the...
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