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!

 

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.

US-Mexico Talks Fuel Tensions for LI Businesses-page-001

 

 

 

Prepare for the Changing World: A Letter to My International Business Students

SYLVAIN SONNET VIA GETTY IMAGES

 

Dear all students:
It is the end of the semester for the class of International Business. I hope you have learned plenty of  knowledge and practices about conducting business internationally: You have learned the opportunities and challenges brought by international trade and globalization; you have understood why and how companies internationalize their business to remain their competitiveness; acting as as small businesses and non-profit organizations, you have exercised the process to export many wonderful products or service from the USA to the global markets; and you also have read many current news articles to be aware of the changing world today with the trend of anti-trading and anti-globalization which I believe to be a temporary setback for our society. At the end of the course, I hope you have developed an objective view about international business and may even expand your career into the global scale.  Although the course is over, I hope you can continue to search for an answer for this important question for yourself: how can I remain competitive in today’s changing world?

First all, we should be all clear based on we discussed in the semester: job lost today is mainly due to automation, not international trade. “The US did indeed lose about 5.6m manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2010. But according to a study by the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, 85 per cent of these jobs losses are actually attributable to technological change — largely automation — rather than international trade”.[1]

Let’s remember the story of Kodak: In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just three years, they went bankrupt because the emergence of digital cameras. What happened to thousands Kodak employees in the past will happen to many other industries in the near future, because we are living in the 3rd and going toward 4th Industrial Revolution, driven by the growth of computation, artificial intelligence, and automation, “a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres”.[2]

Even in the service industries, we see a tremendous shift of using technology, software, and artificial technology to replace human workers. McDonald’s and restaurant chains are using computer tablets as a solution for rising labor costs[3].  IBM Watson artificial intelligence can provide diagnosis for patients and offer legal advice for clients, faster and more accurate than doctors and lawyers[4].

In short, we are not competing with other people around the world, but competing with robots and computers. It is what face us today and nothing can prevent us from the use of technology to advance the world.  It sounds scary in a way because the job market today requires us having a lot more knowledge to be a competitive individual. I could not advice you what career you should go for a long-term job security, but I can say what you should do to become competent and ride the wave of technological innovation: You must be a creative and critical thinker, be flexible to adapt to changes, sharpen your skills and knowledge through continuous learning, and keep yourself informed with reliable information sources. And last, respect and collaborate with others. I hope that my suggestion will help you to identify a career which you are passionate about and become successful in. When you are prepared for the changes and equipped with innovative ideas, what globalization presenting to you would be more opportunities than challenges.

For those who graduate in December: My best wishes for your new endeavor and stay in touch with your college and your professors.

For those who come back in the Spring: Enjoy the winter break and see you around in the Spring!

[1] https://www.ft.com/content/dec677c0-b7e6-11e6-ba85-95d1533d9a62

[2] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/

[3] http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2016/11/29/thanks-to-fight-for-15-minimum-wage-mcdonalds-unveils-job-replacing-self-service-kiosks-nationwide/#51666a34762e

[4] http://www.businessinsider.com/watson-radiology-diagnosis-demonstration-2016-11

CUIBE Award for Best Paper on “Teaching International Business”

Best Paper Award

As a scholar, the best recognition is to receive Best Paper award. It is always my goal to receive such award so you can imagine how I jumped up and down when my pedagogical paper received the inaugural CUIBE award for Best Paper on “Teaching International Business” at 2016 annual conference of Academy of International Business (AIB2016). As an educator, I also feel proud that my instructional approach is recognized as innovative and valuable for the education of international business.

The conference paper has been improved and published at Journal of Teaching in International Business, titled Improving Intercultural Competence in the Classroom: A Reflective Development Model. In this paper, I propose a four-stage reflective development model to enhance intercultural competence for undergraduate students and implemented in my class of International Management. The model provides a pedagogical approach for motivating students to engage in intercultural interactions, for helping them learn to make sense of their environment, and for advancing their learning about intercultural interactions.

Last, thanks to the funding from the Students First Grant at Farmingdale State College in 2015 to support me conducting this pedagogical research successfully.

 

Does your Company Fit well in your Foreign Markets? -Organizational Cross-Cultural Adaptation Survey

Here is my invitation for your company to participate this research: Organizational Cross-Cultural Adaptation.

We are conducting the survey to study the best practices of organizational cross-cultural adaptation of firms operating in foreign markets as part of our vision to reach out and service the business community. The project will provide a tremendous managerial implication to multinational firms who are facing challenges in their overseas operations and ultimately help to enhance their competency in the global market.

The project will be conducted through on-line survey. The company employees will fill out the survey and it will take them about 30 minutes to complete. As our appreciation for your support of the study, we will provide an aggregate report to assess the strength and weakness of the cross-cultural adaptation of your company, and our recommendation for the areas of improvement. The study would be used for publication in academic outlets. The publication will ensure anonymity of all participants and your companies.

Click above presentation for additional information about this project or contact me for more!

Learning from my Doctoral Experience

Memorial Moment of my Hooding Ceremony

After the exciting and cheerful PhD hooding ceremony, I am now officially titled as a Doctor of Philosophy. I am delightful to achieve such a milestone in my life after four years of studying in the doctoral program in Georgia State University. I would not say that it has been easy for me to get here. I am yet to be a successful researcher in my field as I am still struggling with to get my first academia journal publication. However I would say that I had an enjoyable experience during these years pursuing my doctorate, while being a first-time mom to raise my son from a crying infant to a happy little man, and assisting my husband growing his photography business. I have been extreme fortunate in my path to achieve such milestone: I am fortunate to meet Dr. Tamer Cavusgil as an undergraduate student in Michigan State University, who is a distinguished scholar in the field of International business and led me to the path of PhD over a decade; I am fortunate to meet Dr. Leigh Ann Liu, my faculty mentor and advisor, who opened the door to the intriguing subject of cross-cultural management and inspired me in many ways as a researcher; I am  very fortunate to have my supporting and hard-working spouse, Zac, who helps me getting through these years without complaining; and I am  very fortunate to be in a doctoral program which allowed me balancing my life and study. Very soon, I will begin my new life as an assistant professor and face other new set of challenges. It is time for me to reflect what I have learned from my PhD program and hope I can apply them again in my future career and life. In particular, what are the most important factors to make my doctoral experience as a cheerful and memorable journey?

With Dr. Liu and Dr. Cavusgil during my Hooding Ceremony

Spirit of Entrepreneur

Majority of doctoral program in the United State is very well structured with seminars. We learn various research methods and literature before we start our dissertations. However, we often have to deal with ambiguity and confusion during our study. At the beginning of my program, I had very vague idea about research and did not know what I would be interested in. Unless some advisors would like their students to carry on researches based on their agenda, it is often up to us to identify our own research subjects which interest and inspire us to explore and discover. Like entrepreneurs, we will identify opportunities and challenges, develop an actionable attack plan, grow “thick-skin” from rejections, seek for supporting resources, and learn the right way from many trials and errors. With such spirit, we can get away from all those frustrations from rejections and failures, and keep us going in high spirits.

Curiosity of New Knowledge

In my past education, I had various trainings in the subjects of management and business administration, from accounting, to finance, to process improvement, and to strategy management. However, I felt what I had been lacking is the knowledge of how people, individuals, or groups, or companies, make their decisions and behave in organizational settings.  I expand my readings from management to sociology and psychology, which lead me to another world of knowledge about the software of the mind. It can be a curse for me as a researcher because I have a wide range of research interests instead of focusing on developing myself as subject expertise. However,  I could not only enjoy conversing with scholars from other fields, but also apply the learning from other disciplines into my field. The continuous learning from broad (although lacking of breath) subjects enlightens me with the power of knowledge and keeps me pondering and seeking answers for my questions.

Passion of Discovery

It is more important to choose research subjects that we are passionate about. There are roadblocks and challenges in the path of researching. Many tasks are tedious and repetitive. The paper revising process is frustrating and endless. I have to confess: I have projects sitting in my file-drawer and feel reluctant to revisit. However, for the projects I am truly interested in, I could stay motivated and excited with the small new findings and progress. It is the passion of discovery keep me going to overcome the challenges and to stay focused.

Relax Whenever Necessary

We have very limited time, while we have so many things to do with our family, teaching, researching, and socializing. We barely have time to take a break. But I would suggest anyone feeling burnout to take a break once a while. If we feel that we are stalled and going nowhere, why not stop reading, writing, cleaning, and anything we are planning to do, but watch some comedies or take a long night sleep. Yes, we need to work hard because we have pressure of publication and tenure, but we should also enjoy our life as a spouse, a parent, a child, and a friend, and spend time with people important to our life. We should treat ourselves fair, if not nice. Taking a break from what we are stressed about can often give us a new look later on.

The list can go on, but those learning is the most important for me to help me through my doctoral program. I believe those thoughts will continue to help me enjoy my future career as a scholar. But most important of all, quote from Dr. Cavusgil’s key-note speech during the hooding ceremony, “Take what life gives you. Don’t hesitate to embrace chance.”

Update: News from GSU CIBER: Jing Betty Feng Receives PhD, April 28, 2014