Reviewed by George F. Simons at diversophy.com Amazon review
When Culture Matters, is only about 50 pages long, though the bottom corner count is 101, since each opposing page of the main text is only a one-sentence précis of what is on each opposing page. I read it and relished it on the bus on the way to the grocery store and back!
Described as a "55 minute" guide, it is just that, the clearest most incisive and comprehensive briefing about culture, cultural competence and how they look in life that I have ever read. It is, despite or perhaps because of its diminutive size, a positioning of exactly where our best notions of intercultural understanding and practice can bring us right now. It is not a replacement for further, deeper studies, new metaphors, or for effective hands-on training and coaching, but makes evident their raison d'etre. It provides a program for what you need to know and do, what you need to be aware of, including your own limitations, and what resources and people you need to call upon to do communicate and do business across cultural fences and in multicultural environments.
Yes, the book is business focused, particularly on marketing, which is, after all, how business stay alive, the place where the rubber meets the road, i.e., where the brand and the product come face to face with the different other, be it partner, collaborator, producer, supplier, vendor, marketplace or consumer.
Neogy calls on intercultural theory without being either a true believer or allowing it to limit current contexts of reality or future developments. He is about real engagement. Actionable tips, dimensions of behavior and cultural descriptions and models all have their uses, but they are only the acolytes of cultural truth, which is a more of a well-honed juggling act than an enunciation of something to be believed. Cultural truth is created from the day-by-day exercise of awareness of self and others. It is learning to listen and communicate effectively at every level from the ethnic-national to the functional group to the individuals who integrate these strains into their here-and-now values, speech, behavior and decision-making. Reflection is as important, as theory and culture specific knowledge. I notice that it is often the left-undone part of the work of maintaining and enhancing cross-cultural effectiveness.
The last few pages of When Culture Matters contain a glossary of key concepts, a couple of which I would like to mention in closing--trying to be brief as the author is brief.
* The law of leaky communication: given digital technology, communications quickly spread beyond their intended targets and can cause cultural embarrassment. Think WikiLeaks as the extreme example. The world may know what you have said even before it reaches the intended recipient!
* Polyphony: Rigid consistency cannot be the aim of communication and collaboration today. Think church choir, Bortnianskyi's Cherubicon, not military marching boots.
The short biblio is evidence that Neogy has visited the past, looked at today and used his insight to synthesize the future.