Business

Since the late 1980s I have been asked to present lectures or to participate in workshops devoted to business in East Asia with a special emphasis on Japan. My expertise lies in understanding how business is related to wider social and cultural issues, to business manners and interactions, and to the globalization of corporations.

Business in East and Southeast Asia: Asia is the up and coming area where economic activities and business life are thriving. Since the late 1980s I have been lecturing and consulting for various companies on business in East Asia with a special emphasis on Japan. As Japanese enterprises have expanded abroad, they have had to face the problems of wider cultural and social issues. Based on my work on Japanese business expatriates in Singapore – including detailed studies of particular companies, I have developed an expertise in understanding how business is related to different cultural assumptions (for instance, about resolving conflict or taking initiative), modes of interactions, and the globalization of corporations.

My recent work on popular culture in East and Southeast Asia has focused on two crucial areas that present problems for any company considering expansion to the area. First, the special kinds of networks of collaboration and co-production that have emerged in the area (many of them centered on individuals or on families and not on large corporations) and the ways in which regional nodes of creativity have emerged to produce and market local products. Second, I have studied the unique roles of governments in the area in both promoting and restricting international cooperative ventures in the region.

Multi-cultural workplaces: From a wider perspective, business today is attuned to cultural differences and many enterprises are multi-cultural affairs. How does one take into account these differences? How can employees and managers work in multi-cultural teams? What mechanisms can be put into place for easing this work? Since the end of the 1990s and based on my work on multi-national military forces, research into Japanese business enterprises in Singapore, and the work of my students I have expanded my consultancy and presentations to multi-cultural workplaces. As an anthropologist my expertise lies in answering these questions related to the special cultural aspects of doing business.

Multi-cultural workplaces are often characterized by communication problems, coordination and cooperation difficulties, the prevalence of in-group/out-group stereotypes, and lowered trust and cohesion. Yet such places also present such advantages as a wider pool of task-related skills, abilities and perceptions that may lead to improved processes of problem solving and decision-making, and greater creativity. My work focuses on finding ways to make use of the benefits while minimizing the potential damages in such situations. Among the processes that I focus on are creating of a common professional culture, sharing experiences, or linguistic and cultural clarity of communication.