Monday, April 30, 2001

And the New Economy Winner Is Europe

“The European Union is emerging as a formidable competitor among world economies, thanks to an aptitude for cross-border management and an ease with cultural diversity.” With a sub-head like that how could I not pick this article for the Week 2 assignment? J

Stuart Crainer’s article entitled, “And the New Economy Winner Is Europe” in the current edition of Strategy+Business magazine (online at www.strategy-business.com) delves into the popular American myths that paint Europe as a fractured market flawed via multiple languages, laws, and cultures to conclude that those flaws are actually the basis for Europe’s strength in the new economy.

He anchors his work on conclusions drawn from The Global Competitiveness Report 2000 by Oxford University Press, which indicates that seven of the top eight countries ranked are European. The United States is ranked number two by this measure while Finland ranked number one in global competitiveness. To salve your curiosity, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and the UK were ranked third through eighth while Singapore and Australia checked into ranks nine and ten.

Crainer points out “at its best, new European management is founded on the embrace of the ‘single market’ concept, an aptitude for cross-border management, an ease with cultural diversity, and a belief that business is founded on relationships.” This makes sense to me as points of strength as I’ve always envied compatriots whom were able to move from one language and cultural orientation with ease while their US counterparts were often frozen like deer caught in the headlights.

Having been responsible for a sales office in Holland for a few years, I always marveled at the fact that while I was most easily able to relate in American-like terms to the team there, they could very readily switch gears to assist in addressing the needs of Germany, the UK, France, Spain and Egypt in that sometimes seemed the opposite of an approach they had worked just moments before. This chameleon-like reality was perhaps most evident at large trade shows where one moment you might find yourself being hugged by an Arabic customer and chatting about life in general while in the next instance you’d shift to rattling off specifications to a German customer in crisp, dry notes with nary a casual beat.

Crainer’s belief is that rather than being “hidebound by a combination of culture, history, and habit” Europe is poised to leverage its (historically) US perceived weaknesses into a strength capable of flourishing in the new economy. Europe clearly has a sensitivity to other cultures and the ability to work in teams that surpasses the US’s cultural individualism and hero worship approach within the global economy.

As Crainer writes, “the New Economy demands more consensual and culture-based management skills. It is built on relationship-dependent initiatives like cooperative strategies and strategic alliances, for which European managers appear well equipped.”

So, while Europe struggles with its multiple voices, regulations, and sense of self-confidence in the New Economy, its struggles could lead to a huge gain in business success at the exact time when the US must learn more about other cultures.

For as choice appears in the global economy, just being boisterous, fast, and good starts being weighed against the long held-social values within Europe. My own suspicion is that those long held values will make it tougher to choose US business if the European pace of reincarnation continues.


Source:

Strategy+Business, 2nd Quarter, 2001 p 40-47.Title: And the New Economy Winner Is Europe
Author: Stuart Crainer


P. Cateora, J. Graham. "International Marketing." Irwin McGraw-Hill. 1999.

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