Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast


I came across the visual for “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast” in a presentation and thought that this statement is a perfect statement to start a discussion with my first post on the Culture Curious Global Blog.

This statement has proven to be true in my experience.  A global business strategy that doesn’t take into account cultural differences across markets and in organizations carries risk that can be preempted. Also, organizations planning to offer products and services that require consumers and businesses to adopt new cultures need to be aware of the creativity, time and investment needed for such a cultural change.

Business leaders with a strong global mindset understand the decision making systems of their consumers and business partners in different parts of the world, acknowledge different world views as global business resource and incorporate their understanding into their global business strategies to ensure faster, more effective and often more innovative global business conduct.

Examples, experiences?  Looking forward to posts.

  • That title is brilliant! Hillarious!
    I will give one example, of what it means to feel cultural norms impact at even the most basic level, and then another of what these differences meant to me in practice as I struggled to open and run my own preschool abroad.
    1. In a tiny airport somewhere near the Black Sea in Turkey, knowing I had to find perhaps 8 different modes of transportation for the next leg of my journey to the Kackar (Caucasus Mountains), I decided to take advantage of the bathroom in the airport before there were no more bathrooms to take advantage of. As I waited my turn for the one stall this airport boasted, I found myself praying quietly that it would be an “a la Franca” toilet, i.e. a commode one can sit on–apparently the Turks think the French invented it. When the door finally opened into this very public hallway and I saw the “French” toilet, I breathed a sigh of relief that my thigh muscles would be spared and my shoes and ankles would not carry the mark of a trick I had not yet mastered. Meanwhile, the mother and daughter pair in front of me let out a disappointed “tsk tsk,” that sound of disapproval Turks have perfected by sending the tongue to the roof of the mouth over and over. “Shoot, it’s not an “a la Turka” toilet. Should we wait until we get home?”
    And their answer was a unanimous “yes!”

    2. I had nine staff in my international preschool in Turkey: Eden’s Garden International. Three were either British or American, and six were Turkish: a cook, gardener, cleaning lady, assistant teachers, etc. We would have staff meetings once a week, which was a totally novel experience for the Turkish employees who had never been included either in a participatory decision-making process nor in very open and direct sharing of opinions, thoughts and feelings. In the end, while I may have contributed much and more to these staff members, what I learned from this experience was much more valuable. Everyone would be assigned new duties in the summer months to prepare for summer camp, and we would all pitch in. On the first day of camp, when the kids are stowing their bathing suits for the afternoon inflatable pool extravaganza, I ask the cook if she has filled the pool yet and she answers that it still has a hole in it.
    Taking the pool to get patched had been her assigned duty, and after visiting a shop in town, the one repair idea we had come up with during the meeting, and finding they couldn’t help, the pool had been left deflated and unprepared. To her, she had done what was asked of her: visited a repair shop. To me, she had not done what was asked of her: fixed the pool. That’s when I discovered this invaluable truth: initiative is not innate, it is learned, and it is not currently being taught in Turkey. There were exceptions, and when I found them I kept them for as long as I could, but the assumption that whoever saw something missing or needing to be done would either do it or alert the right person who needed to know, was a completely culture-based one that needed to be altered to work without meltdowns and disappointments in Turkey.

    Thank you Sirin for offering the opportunity to discuss these matters here. They are so fun.
    Tara Alisbah

  • SirinKoprucu |

    Thank you for sharing your observations and experiences in Turkey in a very sincere and vivid way. Thank you also for highlighting the importance of being aware of our assumptions when entering new cultures and that these may not hold true in these cultures no matter how right, pleasant and familiar they appear to us. I know you also found much joy in the Turkish culture. I encourage readers to check out Tara Alisbah’s website as she has mastered very interesting and valuable work regarding nonverbal communication in Turkey and she’s a witty speaker. I hope to hear from others who can share with us substantial research regarding nonverbal communication in different countries as this is one of the critical Global Mindset attributes and not quite easy to grasp.

  • SirinKoprucu |

    Further resources:

    Check out a song titled “Eller Eller – Hands Hands” by Yıldırım Gürses (1938-2000), one of my favorite Turkish Classical Music composer performers who as music lovers may notice was a tenor not singing opera but a different kind of music:

    And here’s the same song by Emel Sayın (1945-present), another performer whose hand gestures are famous among Turkish people:

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *