University of Iceland October 30, 2012
| School of Business
VIÐ512G Business and Intercultural Communication
The Alpha & Beta negotiation case
Sunna Mist Sigurðardóttir
Guidelines for dealing with the Alphas
Guidelines for dealing with the Betas
Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures – Cesar Chavez
The understanding of different cultures becomes increasingly important as the world becomes more connected every day. The mutual respect for one’s culture is as important as the respect of the person itself. In my opinion, everybody is entitled to be different and be respected for what they are and where they come from. In the University of Iceland a group of Business students were proposed a clever exercise on Intercultural negotiations. They were to represent a different cultured firm and go through a resource negotiation to come to a conclusion or a compromise. In this exercise the students got only a glimpse of the challenges that are faced by multicultural and global companies all over the world when they approach the negotiation table, but that glimpse is just the beginning of their journey of the intercultural understanding needed in the business environment today.
According to Dr. Elena Groznaya’s research, 70 percent of intercultural negotiations fail because of culturally conditioned factors and the lack of so-called cultural sensitivity. Business negotiations always require thorough preparation, patience, time and flexibility but in the international environment it is important to be aware of other factors as well. According to business experience and intercultural research, the most common areas of misunderstanding in negotiation between various countries is due to different time values, perceived purpose of the negotiation and communication styles. (Groznaya, 2008) The Lewis model, a cross-century tool purposed by Richard D. Lewis, defines and simplifies the blueprint for cultural analysis across border. According to Lewis there are three distinct cultures, or categories that emerge, those are linear-active, multi-active and reactive. (Lewis, 1990) Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner developed a model as well of the seven dimensions of culture after spending 10 years researching the preferences and values of people in various cultures around the world. (Wooliams, 2003) These models will be used to analyze the different cultures of the firms in the exercise, Alpha and Beta.
When looking at the Beta culture it is possible to describe them as reactive. That is they were very polite, patient, people-oriented, subtle, and reacted to their partner’s actions without ever losing face. This description matches most Asian countries and high context cultures. According to Trompenaars cultural dimensions these cultures represent Communitarianism, particularism, external control, diffuseness, ascribed status oriented and neutral cultures. (Wooliams, 2003) (Hampten-Turner, 2000) The alphas in this exercise were very impatient, emotional, talked most of the time, had unlimited body-language and flexible truth so according to the Lewis model they can be described as Multi-active. The multi-active culture represents most western countries and low context cultures. According to Trompenaars cultural dimensions these cultures represent individualists and Universalists which are specific, affective, internally controlled, sequential time and achieve status oriented cultures. (Wooliams, 2003) (Hampten-Turner, 2000) When under pressure it is quite common that people tend to assert their cultural values more than usual which can lead to an uncomfortable...
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