Parochialism, My Journey of Learning about it, and its Implication for Me

With the publication of my paper Parochialism and its Implications for Chinese Companies’ Globalization at Management and Organization Review, I could now share and reflect on my journey for my research on parochialism.  

Back to six years ago, during the research of my dissertation, my interviewees often discussed a common phenomenon among their Chinese business partners, so called “quality fade”: the Chinese firms often bid a low price in order to get orders. At the beginning, they can fulfill the order to meet quality requirement. However, very soon and on purposely, they start to lower quality standard or substitute interior materials in order to lower their costs. When the business owners were asked why they should think it is ok to change the material without informing their overseas business partner. The responses were often like this: What a big deal is it as long as the products are working? They did not consider following quality standard a big issue. My interviewees asked me: How can Chinese firms think it is ok to lower the quality standard to hurt the business relationship when Chinese culture supposes to value relationship and face? Why are Chinese firms are so short-term oriented when Chinese culture supposes to value long-term relationship? What part of Chinese cultures allows Chinese firms to make such business conduct and think it’s ethical and normal?  Do you think Chinese quality will go through the same quality improvement cycle like Japanese did in 50s?

That is how my research on parochialism started: The phenomenon of either “quality fade” or “poorly-made-in-China” (Midler, 2009) is just the surface of the iceberg which underlining a business culture, or organizational or  managerial practices in China. In a larger scale, some characteristics of Chinese business cultures can become barriers for Chinese companies to become a global player, which are demonstrated prominently through the following business conducts I observed during my dissertation research:

  1. Short-term focus without a strategic global vision
  2. Heavily reliance on government relationship
  3. Pursuit of short-cut solutions for quick return, such as reverse-engineer, bandage repair or lower quality standard for costs savings.
  4. Preference of real-estate property investment, instead of investment on R&D, human capital, or branding.
  5. Emphasis of superficial tasks to maintain “face” without real improvements, such as “Mianzi Project”

Researchers have been strived to use established cultural dimensions to explain the Chinese business cultures, particularly Hofstede and GLOBE dimensions (Philipsen & Littrell, 2011), and China most prominent cultural characteristics of Guanxi (personal connections) and mianzi (face) (Buckley, Clegg, & Tan, 2006; Chen, Chen, & Xin, 2004; Lockett, 1988; Wah, 2001).  However, many Chinese managerial behaviors are not fully explained by the cultural dimensions and even contradictory to the traditional views of Chinese culture, such as long-term orientation and collectivism. A missing link between emic cultural dimensions and etic Chinese traditional culture puzzles researchers and practitioners trying to apprehend cultural sources of Chinese business behaviors.

Through reviewing literature, surprisingly, parochialism (xiao nong yi shi 小农意识), a type of mind-set rooted deeply in the society of China for centuries (Yuan, 2000), has rarely studied in the West. Within China society, parochialism is well known as a mindset developed from the large population of peasants throughout Chinese history, however it exists among every level of society despite of the level of education and wealth. It has been unconsciously and profoundly shaped Chinese cultures, morals and social norms. Chinese social science researchers also recognize it as a psychological barrier for Chinese to achieve modernized society and advanced civilization (Liu, 2008; Yuan, 2000). Yet, parochialism, a unique mode of thinking among Chinese and the product of Chinese history and institution, has not been acknowledged and studied too much outside China. The closest construct established through scientific approach is the Defensiveness (A-Q mentality) scale in Chinese Personality Assessment Inventory (CPAI) (Cheung et al., 1996; Cheung et al., 2001), while only demonstrates one dimension of parochialism.

The journey of interviewing, drafting, and revision for publication took six year. Although the publication focuses on the impact in China’s globalization, the concept of parochialism is not a China only phenomenon. During these years, we have experienced the world challenges of de-globalization and national protectionism. Social and political psychologists have shown that people around the world can become closed-minded when they face threats from outsiders. China may have a very unique institution and social environment, but parochialism exists in other countries and makes us focus on short-term gains and protect self and in-group interests.  The review of literature also frightens me that the human mindset has not changed too much over time. Parochialism is almost a human-nature for decision making to allow history always repeating itself.

I consider the publication as the first major milestone for my research. Yes, it took six years, but it helped me to use perseverance and open-mindedness as an antidote for my own parochialism.   

Reference

Buckley, P. J., Clegg, J., & Tan, H. (2006). Cultural Awareness in Knowledge Transfer to China—The role of Guanxi and Mianzi. JOurnal of World Business, 41, 275-288.

Chen, C. C., Chen, Y.-R., & Xin, K. (2004). Guanxi Practices and Trust in Management: A Procedural Justice Perspective. Organization Science, 15(2), 200-209.

Cheung, F. M., Leung, K., Fan, R., Song, W.-Z., Zhang, J.-X., & Zhang, J. P. (1996). Development of the Chinese Personality Assessment Inventory (CPAI). Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 27, 181-199.

Cheung, F. M., Leung, K., Zhang, J.-X., Sun, H.-f., Gan, Y.-Q., Song, W.-Z., & Xie, D. (2001). Indigeous Chinese Personality Constructs, Is the Five-Factor Model Complete? Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 32, 407-433.

Liu, Y. (2008). 小农意识-农民个体而非阶级的意识.

Lockett, M. (1988). Culture and the Problems of Chinese Management. Organization Studies, 9(4), 475-496.

Midler, P. (2009). Poorly Made in China: An Insider’s Account of the China Production Game John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.

Philipsen, S., & Littrell, R. F. (2011). Manufacturing Quality and Cultural Values in China. Asia Pacific Journal of Business and Management, 2(2), 26-44.

Roberts, D. (2012). China’s Export Machine Goes High-End. Bloomberg Businessweek, April 05, 2012.

Schuman, M. (2011). Can China compete with American manufacturing? Time, March 10, 2011.

Yuan, Y. (2000). 小农意识与中国现代化. 武汉出版社.

Wah, S. S. (2001). Chinese Cultural Values and their Implication to Chinese Management. Singapore Management Review, 23(2), 75-83.

Radiocast: Business Plan Competition, Entrepreneurship

Today, I had the first time experience to go live on the air as a radio talk guest! At our campus radio station Ram Nation Radio, we got to discuss the significance for students to participate New York State Business Plan Competition (NYSBPC) and entrepreneurship activities. It was a truly fun experience. Watch and listen to our radiocast at RAM National Radio!

Use CQ to Combat Cultural Clashes In the Workplace

As part of Asian American Heritage Celebration & relevant Conversation at PSEG Long Island, I had a great honor to participate the panel discussion: Combating Cultural Clashes. Together with other two speakers, Ms. Liz Bell-Carroll and Ms. Carrier Dunican from PSEG, we discussed how to use emotional intelligence (EQ) and intercultural Competence (CQ) as tools to address the intercultural clashes within the organization.

As my research focusing on intercultural management, I introduced the concept of culture and CQ, and explained how CQ can help to minimize culture clashes.

Culture is a very broad concept and is defined as characteristic way of behaving and believing that a group of people have developed over time and share in common (Tarique et al., 2016). There are also different types of cultures, broadly, as visible and invisible. The visible cultures are those you can see, such as food, arts, dresses, musics, communication styles, or even behavior patterns. Another type of culture is invisible, including values, philosophies, believes, and universal truth. It is the invisible culture often causing misunderstanding, miscommunication, and intercultural clashes.

I also emphasize that, very often, people tends to think that culture differences come from ethnicity or different countries. However, the different gender, age, language, occupation, and organization are all sources of culture differences in an organization. Organizations today are formed with peoples with diversified background and different ideas, which make our working environment more culturally diversified than ever.

Related to EQ, CQ emphasizes on the critical professional skill for dealing with ambiguity, stress, frustration, and problem solving in an unfamiliar environment. When employees interact with colleagues from different functions, ages, and organizations, they may observe unfamiliar behaviors, values, and believes causing frustration and clash. CQ can help employees managing the thoughts and emotions in intercultural situations, keep them open-minded and nonjudgmental about new ideas and behaviors. Most importantly, employees with high CQ are more accepting of different behaviors and not resorting to negative stereotypes about other cultures or people. As a result, employees with CQ can establish better interpersonal relationship with their colleagues and achieve higher level of collaboration.

Research has shown CQ an essential ability for effective leadership, collaborative teamworks, and high level of performance in any organization. However, developing CQ is not an easy task and can take a long time and effort for development. In the panel, we discussed the importance of motivation for any employees to develop CQ. Fortunately, PSEG offers a lot of learning resources for motivated employees to explore new knowledge. A dozen of cultural groups in the company provided tremendous opportunities for employees to interact with their familiar or unfamiliar colleagues from all backgrounds. For example, ASPIRE (Asian American group), the sponsor of the event, organized such great social event, to enable interaction and conversation among employees.

During the interactive discussion, the challenge of intercultural communication was raised. Very true, verbal and non-verbal communication styles can be very different among cultures. Intercultural miscommunication is one of main sources to result in ambiguity and misunderstanding. A higher level of CQ can help individual to feel less stressful during intercultural communication, however, it also requires additional learning for anyone to enhance their intercultural communication skills.

One hour of discussion was over quickly. I feel grateful to be offered such opportunity to share my passion of intercultural interaction research with partitioners. It is always my goal being an engaged scholar to bridge the knowledge gap between the research and practice.  I wish I brought some insights for my audience to cope with cultural clashes and motivated them to explore further.

P.S. Thanks for the invitation from PSEGLI ASPIRE President Linda Zhang to engage me in such great conversation!

 

Intercultural Communication

Various patterns of verbal and non-verbal communication styles in different culture is a major source of intercultural misunderstanding and intercultural conflicts. In any intercultural interaction, such as business partnership, contract negotiation, or daily transaction, intercultural communication effectiveness is essential to enhance personal relationship and to achieve desired organizational outcome.

The workshop is designed to help participants understand the impact of intercultural communication and develop cultural agility to connect and communicate with others in the intercultural interaction setting. The participant will achieve the following:

Innovation through Cross-Functional Teams

The ability to innovate determines the performance and growth of any organizations, however, to drive innovation through cross-functional teams is not easy: different mindset and knowledge can often cause more conflicts than delivery of  innovative solutions.

Based on the framework of design thinking, this workshop is designed to enhance the collaboration in the cross-functional teams to drive innovate thinking in an organization. Through a series of activities, the participants will be able to discover synergies and leverage diversity  to achieve the goal of co-innovation through cross-functional teams.

 

 

Intercultural Leadership Development

An effective leader can identify values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that affect organizational performance, health and well-being of culturally diverse workplace. The workshop is designed to develop leadership skill of managers and individual contributors in a diversified workplace.

By the end of the workshop, the participants will be able to achieve the following main objectives:

Intercultural Competence (CQ) Development

Intercultural Competence (CQ) is an underlying characteristic of an individual or team that can be shown to predict effective or superior performance in a job or situation (McClelland, 1973). It is an essential professional skill that  “exists in a person that leads to behaviors that meet the job demands within the parameters of the organizational environment (Boyatzis, 1982). It emphasizes the critical professional skill for dealing with ambiguity, stress, frustration, and problem solving in an unfamiliar environment. Therefore, CQ is a critical element of successful interaction and collaboration in the growing diversified workplace.

The workshop is designed for today’s organizations to gain the benefits to the diversified workplace and to achieve the following objectives.

CIMaR Best Paper Award

I’m more than thrilled! It is a complete surprise for me to receive the award at 26th Annual CIMaR conference – Consortium for International Marketing Research. Together with my co-authors Dr. Song and Dr. Donthu, we worked on this project since my PhD. I’m so glad the research is recognized by the conference as the best paper.

The first author Dr. Jing Song did a wonderful presentation to discuss the motivation, theoretical background, and findings of the study.

CIMaR Presentation By Dr. Jing Song

CIMaR Presentation By Dr. Jing Song

However, Jing missed the award ceremony the next day and I got all of fame to receive the award on behalf of my co-authors. I really wish Jing were there.

Receiving CIMaR Best Paper Award

Other than all of excitement of receiving the award, I had a great time at CIMaR and Italy. I got to see Dr. Cavusgil, who is my mentor and my dissertation committee member. I got to catch up with Jing, whom I haven’t seen more than three years. In addition, with my family, I got to tour around Italy to learn about its culture, history, and life. Love to learn more about Italy and visit again! Here is a short video clip about our trip to Italy.

 

Trade & Unemployment: My Interview with Long Island Business News

I am definitely not the type of people who like to draw a lot of public attention. However, it is time for me to share what I know about about international trade and to explain why trade is more than an opportunity than a tread for our country and the world.

My interview with Long Island Business News was printed in the article on Feb 3rd. titled Heated US-Mexico talks fuel tensions for LI businesses.  It is a mixed feeling to see my picture printed in the newspaper, especially side by side with the two Presidents. In this interview, I mainly discussed the wrong perception for international trade, especially the relationship between trading and unemployment. The followings are my quotes in the article:

” ‘Protectionism never worked for trading.’ She said, referring to the process of restraining trade between countries through such methods as tariffs and other means. Earlier tariffs, she pointed out, on steel and even the sneaker industry did not keep manufacturing jobs in the United States.”

“What we need is not a trade war, we need an open discussion to see how both countries can benefit.”

“Countries should trade on their strength. The U.S. strength is to produce financial services, innovative high-tech products, green energy products, etc. On Long Island, we export a lot of for the aviation and biotech industry. That should be out focus- not labor-intensive manufacturing job.”

“One outcome of NAFTA is that it helps improve the economy of Mexico, that enables Mexicans to afford to buy U.S. products. Nations’s improved economy boosts its standard of living, and reduces the number of Mexicans coming to the United States to find work.”

“As for jobs that were relocated abroad, don’t focus on brining those job back. Instead, provide training to those workers so that they have news skills and place then in other industries. We have unfilled manufacturing jobs, and we don’t have the skilled workers.”

“The focus should be on technology and innovative industries. How can we continue to be the leader of the world economy without those new industries? There is a perception that job loss from trade. But 80 percent of job loss today is from technology changes,  automation, and computerization.”

Thanks to the newspaper of Long Island Business News, especially the reporter Adina Genn, to allow me sharing my thoughts with the local community.

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