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Fish Can't See Water: How National Culture Can Make or Break Your Corporate Strategy Hardcover – September 30, 2013
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The Economist, Oct. 2013. "In focusing on culture they are clearly onto something important. Fish Can't See Water" is full of interesting insights into modern business. There are signs that Western firms are taking cultural sensitivity more seriously. However, emerging-market multinationals still lag behind, particularly in China, ... Messrs Hammerich and Lewis need to take their message about fish and water East as well as West"
MANAGEMENT BOOK OF THE YEAR, 2013 (Denmark). View more reviews on fishcantseewater.com, additional chapter overview, and educational support materials.
Forbes.com, October 2013. The challenge today is to build a culture of continuous innovation, scaling, and consolidation, all concurrently. That's a tall order, especially when your global business culture has to align with a myriad of international and local cultures. In a new book, "Fish Can't See Water," Kai Hammerich and Richard D. Lewis explore these culture issues, both national and international, that can make or break your company strategy. Incidentally, I love that book title, which seems to me applicable to most aspects of business (and even people).
Dallas News, October, 2013.
Regardless of national culture, the authors found common denominators when it comes to derailing a company. Paramount among them is a lack of "diversity of thinking." This is particularly true at the board level and among managers. When people think the same, you get the same old plans. That won't work in a business environment of ever-shifting currents.
Financial Times, July 2013
From the Inside Flap
“Finally a book that addresses the unique competitive edge of all entities, culture. While culture can work in negative and positive ways, understanding its impact on an organization’s goals and doing something about it is the job of all leaders. Thanks to Richard Lewis and Kai Hammerich, we now have the tools to do just that. This book is a must read for any global leader who works across national, economic and cultural boundaries.”
—Steven J. DeKrey, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Asian Institute of Management; former Graduate Dean at The HKUST Business School, Asia’s leading MBA school
“This great book is an invaluable resource and a superb toolkit for all Executives and HR professionals leading or supervising international businesses and teams. Culture matters more than ever and is a unique source of sustainable competitive differentiation. A maverick piece of work from Kai Hammerich and Richard Lewis with absolute word-class insights!”
—Wilbert J. M. Buiter, former Chief HR Officer at Philips Communications, NCR and ING Group
“As a global and yet distinctly Finnish company, Nokia’s strength is derived from its roots, as well as its willingness to draw upon the unique elements of the many cultures of its people around the world. Having met and worked with both Richard Lewis and Kai Hammerich, I have come to value their unique insight into the interplay of national and corporate cultures.”
—Stephen Elop, President and CEO of Nokia Corporation
Top customer reviews
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The book only scratches the surface of cultural analysis, spending most of its time on case studies to demonstrate the effect culture has on the success of a company. The book is excellent for a manager without much immersion in this subject (such as myself), but it will not be adequate on its own to enable managers to apply what has been learnt.
The style of the book is easy to read, the case studies interesting and the "dimensions" or differences between national cultures illuminating. Highly recommended reading.
I teach the capstone course for the MBA program at the European School of Business. This book fits perfectly into the presentation of this double semester, in depth look at the real world. In the course, “Leadership and Corporate Sustainability”, I avoid most texts. I find them to be a fictionalized look at how people in business and businesses operate. Fish Can’t See Water presents no fictions.
The book takes a double barreled approach, each revolving around culture. In each case the authors present true example after true example of how the “Fish can’t see”. The value of the Lewis model of global culture comes from not only theory, but experience. It relies on nuance rather than pigeon holing the world into a set definition of what the cultures may be.
The book takes the next step of applying the “Fish can’t see” experience to corporate culture, both influenced by home country and by tradition. They are excellent and very applicable examples.
In today’s world, lifecycles of corporations are getting shorter and shorter. Structurally and dynamically, they are not built for sustainability. Today the average life of a member of the S&P 500 has dropped to 20 years, down from over 50 years decades ago. With that in mind, every corporate leader should put “Fish” on their reading list.
The message is interesting in that it does not suggest that we refuse to change, it suggests that we can’t see the need because we swim in our own ocean. Not only don’t we see the other people in their own dynamic, we don’t even see our own dynamic. We let ourselves be insulated from others because we see them through just one type of lens and we don’t take time to measure if that is the correct prescription.
There are so many aspects of culture that play a critical role in interactions between people but that we are not aware of. Understanding how our past experiences and origin contribute to what makes our own individual culture and how that differs between countries is, in my opinion, one of the most important things that we all need, not just in business but in life. Communicating with others is key to everything and even the most simple interaction between two people, even if they are apparently of the same culture, carries a baggage of cultural heritage that colors the dialogue and its outcome. So when that comes into play between people from different countries or communities, it can get complicated and difficult. Understanding the cultural background of people can make the difference between a successful and productive business meeting and a disastrous one that causes you to lose the deal (even if it appears the meeting went very well!).
I think that this book should be on the reading list in all high schools, colleges and companies. For my own company, which I founded a year ago to help executives accelerate their global expansion, I am planning to put it on the reading list.
I have recommended this book to many people and they all rave about it!