Cultural Intelligence

by P. Christopher Earley and Elaine Mosakowski

YOU SEE THEM AT INTERNATIONAL airports like Heathrow: posters advertising the global bank HSBC that show a grasshopper and the message “USA—Pest. China—Pet. Northern Thailand—Appetizer.”

Taxonomists pinned down the scientific definition of the family Acrididae more than two centuries ago. But culture is so powerful it can affect how even a lowly insect is perceived. So it should come as no surprise that the human actions, gestures, and speech patterns a person encounters in a foreign business setting are subject to an even wider range of interpretations, including ones that can make misunderstandings likely and cooperation impossible. But occasionally an outsider has a seemingly ...

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