CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited
Did the Pedestrian Die?
Did the Pedestrian Die?
Fons TrompenaarsCapstoneISBN: 1-84112-436-2£14.99
Fons Trompenaars is another in the line of former Shell employees – Charles Handy is perhaps the best known – who have moved on from Anglo-Dutch corporate life to offer advice from the sidelines to the business world.
Did the Pedestrian Die? is an accumulation of a decade of research into cultural diversity across the globe with a wide range of client organisations as a globe-trotting consultant for the firm he runs with Charles Hampden-Turner – THT consulting.
The title is taken from a hypothetical dilemma Trompenaars presents to managers – so far to about 70,000 managers in over 65 countries. He asks them to consider the situation in which they are a passenger in a car driven by a close friend. That friend knocks down a pedestrian. The friend was travelling well above the speed limit – say 35 miles an hour in a 20-mile-an-hour-zone. There are no witnesses. The friend's lawyer suggests that testifying under oath on the friend's behalf that he was only doing 20 miles an hour may save him from serious consequences. Trompenaars asks whether the friend has a definite right, some right or no right at all to expect someone (the manager being asked the question) to testify to the lower figure. He also asks whether – irrespective of such right – the manager would testify to the lower figure.
The answers received have varied around the world and, to some extent, comply with existing stereotypes. The Swiss almost unanimously feel that the friend has no right to expect his friend to perjure him/herself, and that in no circumstances should this be considered. However, in Venezuela and, interestingly, in China, less than 35 per cent of people agree with this line.
The point is that culture is not uniform but it is often a major determinant of attitude and of action. It is rich, varied and, at times, problematic. Those involved in multi-national organisations must understand this fact – and understand its implications. Unfortunately, according to Trompenaars, such understanding is too often not evident amongst the army of MBA graduates and business school elites that make up the world's major corporations and consultancy firms. The MBA, he believes, too often confers respectability onto those who have been trained to be slaves to a crude philosophy of shareholder value that destroys, rather than creates, true, long-term value.