Global Dexterity: A book review by Bob Morris

Global DexterityGlobal Dexterity: How to Adapt Your Behavior Across Cultures without Losing Yourself in the Process
Andy Molinsky
Harvard Business Review Press (2013)

The Power of Behavior Modification Based on Values-Driven Cross-Cultural Management

As I began to read this book, I was reminded of an excerpt composite that I formulated for my review of Ram Charan’s recently published book, Global Tilt: Leading Your Business Through the Great Economic Power Shift, whose title refers to the fact that “the world has tilted. Its economic center has shifted from what have traditionally been called the advanced or Western countries of the northern hemisphere to fast developing countries including China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, and others in the Middle East and even parts of Africa…Wealth is moving from North to South, and so are jobs…The South is driving change. The North is afraid of it…The world is in an inevitable transition to a more even distribution of opportunity and wealth…The global financial system, which h connects the economies of all countries every second of the day, is highly unstable…Many countries below the thirty-first parallel are creating their own rules of the road and executing their growth plans to win jobs and resources for their people…Companies are competing against countries – not just other companies. Northern companies may be building their future competition in exchange for access to markets…The tilt will seesaw along the way…Like it or not, you have no choice but to figure out how to position your business in light of the changes.”

According to Andy Molinsky. he wrote this book “because I believe there is a serious gap in what has been written and communicated about cross-cultural management and what people actually struggle with on the ground.” After having read Charan’s and then Molinsky’s book, I realize that effective management requires dexterity wherever supervision of others is involved; moreover, if cross-cultural management in only one country is analogous with checkers, then cross-cultural management in several countries is analogous with chess…and if the countries are from the first, second, and third “worlds,” cross cultural management is analogous with three-dimensional chess played at lightning speed.

Credit Molinsky with especially clever use of various reader-friendly devices that include diagnostic exercises (“Your Turn”) at the conclusion of Chapters 2-7 and checklists of key points and core processes as well as Figures and Tables that increase the reader’s interaction with material throughout the narrative. Later, these devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent of material.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to suggest the scope of Molinsky’s coverage.

o What You Will Learn in This Book, and, On Diagnosing the Cultural Code (Pages 13-21)
o The Authenticity Challenge: I Feel Disingenuous (24-29)
o A Six-Dimensional Approach for Diagnosing the Cultural Code (48-51)
o Linking the Two [i.e. Zone of Appropriateness and Your Personal Comfort]: The Zone of Optimal Performance (74-77)
o Making Small, but Personally Meaningful Adjustments (86-93)
o Your Personalized Cultural Portfolio of Cultural Adaptation (130-133)
o How Can We Be Forgiven for Our Cultural Mistakes? (141-151)
o Choosing a Model: The Importance of Picking the Right Person [to Be a Local Mentor] (155-157)
o Five Key Takeaways: Table C-1 (173-176)

Before concluding his brilliant analysis of what continues to be a major challenge to senior-level executives with multi-cultural responsibilities, Molinsky acknowledges, “No one said that adapting your cultural behavior is easy. However, what I hope you have learned in this book is that it is possible, and than using the tools provided here, along with tour own ingenuity, motivation, and courage, you can learn to adapt your own behavior across cultures on your terms. I hope you will take the plunge.”

I realize that no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the material that Andy Molinsky provides in this volume but I hope that I have at least suggested why I think so highly of it. Also, I hope that those who read this commentary will be better prepared to determine whether or not they wish to read the book and, in that event, will have at least some idea of how the mastery of powerful tools will enable them to stay calm, remain confident, and be productive whenever the pressure’s on.

I also highly recommend Ram Charan’s aforementioned book, Global Tilt, as well as C.K. Prahalad’s The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Revised and Updated 5th Anniversary Edition) and Reverse Innovation: Create Far From Home, Win Everywhere, co-authored by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble

Posted in

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.