Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!

Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove from Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove. © wikimedia commons

This quote from , the 1964 film Dr Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb is a perfect example of what I don’t believe… namely the worst sometimes does happen.

The first casualty in war is always the truth. In the current conflict in Ukraine both sides are busily escalating the stakes threatening to play a lose-lose game of nuclear destruction, with the objective of seeing who blinks first. The collateral damage as always in innocent civilians makes a mockery of humanitarian claims by the Russians, who are playing out the same strategy as in other wars, albeit against US and EU opposition fuelled by the Russians elementary failure to cut off communications — thanks partly to Elon Musk’s Starlink system.

There are parallels in all negotiations in business. Initially we usually don’t even realise we are negotiating, as one side positions for maximum leverage against their opponent. Unlike military conflicts the collateral damage is usually not fatal, but bad leadership does result in company failure and lost livelihoods.

In his book When Cultures Collide, Richard D. Lewis provides a truly global and practical guide to working and communicating across cultures, explaining how our own culture and language affect the ways in which we organise our world, think, feel and respond, before going on to suggest both general and specific ways of making our influence felt across the cultural divide.

By focusing on the cultural roots of national behaviour, both in society and business, we can foresee and calculate with a surprising degree of accuracy how others will react and respond to us. Lewis adds the often overlooked dimension of language — for example, how Japanese often react in a certain way because they are thinking in Japanese.

When Cultures Collide gives you a greater understanding of what makes other people tick and enables managers to ensure that their policies and activities exploit cultural synergies and make the right appeal to their chosen market.

I have also used Geert Hofstede’s tools to understand the behaviours, and optimal negotiation and management strategies for my global teams, for many years. For example in managing a team of engineers in Austria a polite request was executed promptly and comprehensively, whereas in Bolivia when I did not receive a response after a few days the reason given was that “Ian asked so nicely, we assumed it was not important and did not action it.” Horses for courses — I learned that my management approach had to be tailored to the country and organisation culture to achieve desired outputs.

How do you manage conflict and change ?

Military strategist John Boyd always faced it head on :-

“You gotta challenge all assumptions. If you don’t, what is doctrine on day one becomes dogma forever after.”

His approach was to be accountable — To be or to do — he chose the hard path.

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Ian is a digital transformation expert who has saved companies over $200m by integrating technologies and diverse global teams effectively— he is a CEO and poet

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Ian Beckett MSc

Ian Beckett MSc

Ian is a digital transformation expert who has saved companies over $200m by integrating technologies and diverse global teams effectively— he is a CEO and poet

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