I received my copies of the Japanese edition of Think Outside the Country and am very impressed.
The book, like the English edition, is in full color and uses high quality paper.
You can order via Amazon Japan.
The book will be available December 23rd and I look forward to promoting it next year!
If you’re a member of the media and would like a review copy, please let me know.
The dream is profound — a global company united by one language. Employees communicating freely with one another across border and culture, improving productivity and sharing of ideas.
The reality, however, is quite a bit messier than the dream.
But that doesn’t stop CEOs from dreaming.
Such as Hiroshi Mikitani, the CEO of Rakuten, Japan’s leading ecommerce company (and one of the largest by revenues globally). Here is a screen shot of the Rakuten Japan home page. The company is often referred to as the Amazon of Japan.
In 2010, Mikani announced that the company’s 10,000 employees (90% of whom were Japanese) would transition to English over the next two years, beginning that day. Professor Neeley had a front-row seat to this massive transformation, covering it over a period of five years, resulting in The Language of Global Success.
If you have any interest in the globalization of companies, this book is an absolute must read. Neeley had full access to Rakuten employees. She conducted surveys and interviewed staff in Japan as well as parts of Asia, Europe, the US and Brazil. And she has spent many years studying not just Rakuten but other English-only multinationals, such as Siemens and SAP.
The author successfully captured the cross-border and cross-cultural tensions that I often witness in my consulting engagements. And the anecdotes she collects from this 5-year Englishnization project are entertaining. For example, when an American Rakuten executive hears the big English-only announcement, he exclaims, “Thank God he picked my language.”
But the Americans eventually realize that a common language comes with unexpected challenges. As the Japan HQ becomes more English-literate, it is better able to translate its corporate culture (and rules) to all local offices. Eventually, a phone-book-sized employee manual arrives in the US office, detailing such requirements a wearing your ID badge in a specific location at all times. One can imagine how the American employees felt when they were faulted for employee badge infractions, something trivial to them but not at all trivial to HQ.
In the end, everyone became expats during this transition; Neely identifies three categories:
Dual expats turn out to be the best positioned to adapt to the new “global” culture. After all, they were dealing with a mixture of languages and cultures from day one and felt no loss of status or control along the way.
Englishnization vs. Americanization
The choice of language is both obvious and contentious. English has become the informal second language of the world, but it’s important to differentiate between language and culture. Just because Rakuten chose the language didn’t mean the CEO wasn’t also choosing American or Western culture. Though he was clear that he hoped there would be a change in corporate culture within Rakuten (less conformist, more entrepreneurial), which I’m not sure occurred. By the end of the book, Rakuten is still very much a Japanese company, but one that speaks English.
And I would suggest, in the interests of fairness, that native-English speakers be required to pick up a second language. Perhaps Spanish, for the American office. Doing so would send the message that English isn’t the “best” language, simply the most practical for a global company.
Key takeaways from the book include:
The bottom line: Was it worth the trouble?
The CEO says it was, and many employees agree. But productivity suffered along the way. And one could argue that Rakuten did what was inevitable for any global company.
The company has grown over the past five years and is better positioned now to recruit global, English-speaking talent. And the cross-fertilization of ideas between different geographies is now evident, a big plus, and perhaps the greatest upside of all.
Princeton University Press
I’m pleased to announce the publication of my newest book: Think Outside the Country: A Guide to Going Global and Succeeding in the Translation Economy.
This book is the result of the past decade spent working with marketing and web teams around the world. I’ve long wanted to have something I could pass along that would demystify the process of product or website globalization and provide insights into languages, cultures and countries. Such as Brazil:
Too often people get overwhelmed by the complexity of it all, not to mention bewildering lingo and acronyms such as FIGS (French, Italian, German Spanish) and L10n (localization). What I always tell people is that you don’t have to speak a half-dozen languages to succeed in this field, but you do have to know what questions to ask. Hopefully this book will help.
PS: If you’d like to order multiple copies for your teams, quantity discounts are available. Simply contact me using this form.
I’m pleased to announce the new book Think Outside the Country: A Guide to Going Global and Succeeding in the Translation Economy, due out on April 10th.
Think Outside the Country is isn’t strictly about taking a website or mobile app global, though you’ll find plenty of real-world examples about how to do just that. Ultimately, this book is about taking yourself global. It’s about providing an understanding of the globalization process along with country and cultural insights so you know what questions to ask when you’re asked to, say, introduce a product into a new market or launch a global marketing campaign.
This book is intended for people who want to help their organizations expand into new markets as efficiently as possible without any embarrassing or costly mistakes. And this book is about showing respect for the people who live in these markets.
You won’t speak every language, understand every culture. And that’s okay. Nobody knows everything. But we can all know a little bit about a lot. More important, we can know what questions to ask. This book will help.
You can learn more here.
And it’s now available for preorder on Amazon.
PS: We will also offer quantity discounts if you’d like to order a batch for your teams.
I was given a review copy of No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends, which I read over the weekend. The authors are Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel — all directors at the McKinsey Global Institute.
Readers of this blog are not going to be surprised by some of the disruptions highlighted by this book, namely the enormous impact that emerging economies are having on global brands (and future global brands). In fact, I doubt readers will find any of these four disruptive forces to be unique.
But what’s unique is how the book ties these four major forces together in a book that’s packed with insights and anecdotes while remaining free of management-speak.
First, here are the four disruptive forces:
Don’t expect this book to give you any concrete secrets about how to successfully navigate these forces — the authors rightfully point out that there are just too many variables at play to know exactly what this future world will look like.
What this book excels at is quickly summarizing these forces and the challenges they pose to businesses and policy makers. And using real-world examples to illustrate these forces.
I enjoyed the many visuals included in the book, such as this one, illustrating this shifting of the economic center of gravity:
From a web globalization perspective, a few parts of the book jumped out at me, such as:
The authors want this book to help you “reset your intuitions” about the world as you know it. For instance, we can’t think of China as a country with two large cities. It’s a country with numerous cities that rival many European countries in population. And we need to be on the lookout for opportunities (and threats) in countries that we may have overlooked in years past. There are a number of African countries, for example, that Chinese companies are now heavily invested in. And companies are learning that products and distribution strategies that succeed in emerging economies often have little in common with what works in more developed economies. These lessons are important to learn earlier than later!
Perhaps the most important message the authors deliver is one of staying curious and adaptable.
These are traits that make successful managers of global websites. After all, we can’t know what’s around the corner with any degree of certainty. But by keeping a curious and open mind you will be prepared to ride these waves as they come along.
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