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Steve Jobs and the lessons of his early life experience

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In my coaching and teaching, I often speak of the general public’s misconception that people who emerge as world or business leaders have some extraordinary experience in their past, a “crucible” that has prepared them for leadership roles. In fact, effective leaders are characterized not so much by their specific experiences per se, but rather by the way they learn to “process” their experience, to draw the lessons from whatever happens to them. In the case of Steve Jobs, we see clearly how much experiences and reflections from his early years colored his thinking and influenced many of the decisions he made in his business career. In the previous entry, we … Continue reading

A cable, a motherboard and a fence

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You may be wondering what this title is all about. What can these three items possibly have in common, or how can they be connected? Well, let’s see if we can trace the link between them. We can begin by recalling the cables from the last blog post—the ones built by the Americans at AT&T, the ones that met or exceeded all the guidelines and technology requirements stipulated by their Japanese client, Nippon Telephone. The ones that were subsequently rejected by the aforementioned client, who called the cables unacceptable because they were “too ugly”. Last week, a friend sent me a recording of a speech by Walter Isaacson, the biographer of Steve Jobs … Continue reading

The complex game of cultural decoding

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Whenever I speak about intercultural management, one of the stories that seems to captivate audiences most describes a basic misunderstanding between American and Japanese business units collaborating on a telecommunication project. This short anecdote sheds light on some of the profound differences between Japanese and American societies. And, it addresses a larger point about decoding, meaning, and context across cultures.  I first heard the story years ago, and it quickly became one of my favorite tales of intercultural misunderstanding. Here is a quick summary: A unit of the US communications giant AT&T specialized in designing and producing telecom cables, and it sold them throughout the world. One of its largest … Continue reading

Some lessons in “intercultural management”

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As I wrote last week, the topic of intercultural management is one that I always have a lot of fun with, and one that I would welcome more opportunities to talk about in public. Whenever I prepare for one of these talks, it causes me to reflect on some of the insight I have had the good fortune to garner about crossing cultures. And, I usually rediscover some of the stories and lessons I have not considered for some time. For example, on the day of my speech, I was reminded of a lesson about perspective. The speaker who preceded me on that Saturday morning was the Taiwanese ambassador to France. As … Continue reading

Speaking about “intercultural management”

John's events, leadership 1 Comment

This past Saturday, I spent the day in Aix-les-Bains, a beautiful resort town near Lyon. The event was the annual conference for the officers of the region’s Rotary Club. I was invited as an outside speaker to talk about management across the world’s cultures. About 500 people attended, and the lively audience was a pleasure to interact with. This was my initial contact with Rotary, and I was indeed impressed with the members, and with the day’s three other speakers. In addition, I enjoyed learning about Rotary, an organization about which I knew very little prior to this event. As a matter of fact, my knowledge of this organization was limited … Continue reading

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