Customer Review

August 22, 2000
Dense and delightful are paradoxical words that come to mind on reading Sheida Hodge's compendium of Global Smarts, a new book aimed at US Managers going abroad or working across cultures. Its 246 pages are a granola bar packed with nutritious examples that help the ethnocentric business professional taste the reality and consequences of cultural difference. The breadth of the book is surprising, given its size. It touches on just about everything, and does so in a hands-on, practical way.
Hodge briefly sets up the case for why we should busy ourselves about culture by surveying its critical role in business success and failure in the age of globalization. She offers no extensive intercultural theory. It lurks in the background, but is almost transparent to the end user. While there is the obligatory chapter on "What is Culture?" it is a scant 7 pages long.
The rest of the book is how to: how to manage everything from entertaining to expatriation and culture shock, how to communicate and negotiate, and even how not to take a bribe. She explodes myths about women abroad. Hodge may venture into the university from time to time in real life, and her tools as a trainer often show up in the illustrations, but it is clear that she has both feet solidly planted in the world of making it work.
Often a touch of humor, always a carefully chosen short anecdote to bring a point home-these in themselves are Global Smarts, as modeled in the book. It is definitely written for US Americans, at least if one defines them as people coming from or framed by the dominant values of the US business world. It talks their language, even at times their slang. Of course, US Americans are very, very diverse, but if we assume that those who are part of a culture, though they may not be always hold or act out its values, at least recognize them, then the target audience is right for the book.
Global Smarts is too rich to absorb in a sitting--even on the non-stop from Chicago to Seoul--though a worthy companion for the flight. Rather than breaking new ground per se, the book applies mature intercultural knowledge to common and critical situations, and that will break new ground for many US businesspeople.
No doubt more books on succeeding globally will be written, but, in a sense, this one sums up both the possibilities and the limitations of the print medium. As a book, it is a personal, engaging, and satisfying individual experience. On the other hand, despite a good index, it is just begging to be an online resource, with the anecdotes turned into vignettes, with interactive ways of testing comprehension and reactions and comparing ones experiences and feelings with others, and hypertext to take you where you need to learn, instantly.
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