Last summer, WEB authored an important working paper called The Transposition of East & West. Based on some relevant recent happenings, now is a great time to revisit the theme.
Currently, we are seeing a two-way transposition of not only traditional Western values, traits, and characteristics on Eastern cultures (via “Westernization,” or “Americanization”) – but traditionally Eastern values, traits, and characteristics on Western cultures to an extent perhaps unforeseen in recent times. This bilateral shift is happening in profound ways. Indeed, not only is the world’s economic influence shifting, but core values – as they pertain to civil liberties, religion, education, and technology – are also in flux. Eastern cultures traditionally perceived as more conservative are opening up, while Western cultures traditionally viewed as more progressive are becoming more restrictive.
Putting a macro-lens on the economic portion of this theme, a 2008 report by the National Intelligence Council states among several relative certainties that between now and 2025, the unprecedented shift in relative wealth and economic power from West to East will continue. The report also states that the U.S. will remain the most powerful country in the world, but will be less dominant.
Updating this paper, we see that even the core Western tenet that is freedom of expression has been somewhat turned on its head with some important recent developments:
Consider Some Implications…
Implications of this theme are manifold. For example, in our original paper we discussed how many of the world’s largest consumer goods firms have begun adopting the process of “trickle-up innovation.” This entails creating entry-level goods for emerging markets and then repackaging them quickly and cheaply for sale in rich nations, where customers are increasingly hungry for bargains. While this concept is not all that new, it should be reemphasized in the context of this theme. Will execs at global companies fight to retain the more ingrained status quo, or will they embrace trickle-up innovation strategies?
Companies and organizations that operate globally will now have to navigate a new landscape when managing cultural norms within the global workforce, with global professionals, and among the global consumer market. Norms, values, and expectations have shifted. The terms “free market,” “civil liberties,” “innovation” and “gender equality” will be among the many that will no longer conjure up stereotypes of governments, populations, corporations or regions. East/West mixes of management, policymakers, board directors, committee members and marketers, designers and product developers will become extremely beneficial if any significant-sized entity wants to remain nimble and viable as it navigates through this transposition.