Philosophers and business leaders alike say that the world is becoming flat due to globalisation and ‘international’ culture. In response to this, many businesses take cultural differences for granted and jump straight into global expansion without fully researching their new markets. Fish Can't See Water is a book by Kai Hammerich and Richard Lewis that advises leaders on why they shouldn’t be so quick to generalise culture.
In the book, Hammerich and Lewis argue that companies wanting to expand globally need to understand the values and aspirations of local consumers. They also offer examples of corporations that have got it wrong in the past, such as Walmart moving into the German market unsuccessfully. The authors argue that understanding different cultures is not only important, but that each region should be managed individually according to these differences.
While this notion should be widely praised, the book itself is getting mixed reviews. Listed as one of the best books of 2013 by The Economist, their Managing Editor Adrian Wooldridge points out in an online review that although its authors have highlighted useful points relating to the fact that culture matters, they have created too much of a science of the process. Wooldridge’s happy medium is to ‘be aware there’s water there, but don’t analyse it too closely.’
No matter how you look at it, this book sparks a debate worth wading in on.
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