Cultural DNA – The Psychology of Globalization Written by Gurnek Bains

 

Our global world is pushing cultures together as never before. Getting under the skin of other cultures is key to success for both business and political leaders. In this thought provoking book, Cultural DNA, Gurnek Bains, a leading global thinker, presents ground breaking original research and the latest evidence from neuroscience, behavioral genetics, psychology and history to enable people to understand, empathise with and engage people from other cultures in our increasingly connected world.

Bains argues that much previous work in this area has just scratched the surface and he examines the deepest instincts of eight key global cultures to help readers understand the psychological themes at play in regions such as the U.S., Latin America, Europe, China, India, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa and Australia. Evidence from a range of interdisciplinary sources is backed up by insights from an extensive database of 30,000 leaders. The book looks at how cultures are changing and influencing both global politics and business by posing and answering questions such as:

  • Why are Americans so positive?
  • Why is China a world leader in manufacturing and India in IT?
  • Why do overseas firms struggle in the U.S. market place?
  • What are the emotional forces driving current events in the Middle East?
  • What are the psychological roots of the Eurozone crisis and how this is likely to play out?

Bains is co-founder and chairman of YSC, one of the world’s leading corporate psychology consultancies. YSC has 20 offices around the world and works with 40% of FTSE100 companies, leading U.S. multi-nationals, as well as a host of companies in other regions. He is listed in HR Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People.

In his latest book, Bains meticulously explores the deep attributes that each culture has developed over thousands of years to address unique environmental challenges. He argues that, “This essential DNA drumbeat from the past reverberates through each society and as globalization marches on, we ignore it at our peril.”

Furthermore, he suggests that we can learn important lessons from the world’s distinct societies and that cultural instincts may be literally more embedded in people’s DNA than we think. For example, genes related to adventurousness or rebelliousness are evident in over 50% of Latin Americans and in 30% of  people from the U.S. but are at rates close to zero in the Far East. Huge variations are also seen in a number of other “psychological genes”.

For far too long cultural intelligence has been underestimated, but it is now harder to ignore its economic value or importance for creating a harmonious international order. Through this book, business and political leaders will understand how each region’s cultural DNA influences:

  • Its economic and political institutions.
  • People’s underlying consumer psychology.
  • The soft skills needed to lead in that environment.
  • The challenges for leaders from different regions as they move onto the global stage.
  • How to best release people’s potential.
  • The issues that need to be managed to anticipate and solve problems as each culture engages a globalized world.

Every now and again a new book comes along that is a must read; Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point or Seth Godin’s Tribes. Cultural DNA by Gurnek Bains, by virtue of its depth, originality and ambition, is that very book for all global leaders.

 

More About The Author

  • Gurnek Bains has worked with organizations across a wide range of industries for 25 years and remains a trusted advisor to some of the most senior leaders in international business. He is the chief author of ‘Meaning Inc: The blueprint for business success in the 21st century’ (Profile Books 2007), which draws on his extensive experience working with leaders and brings to life the ways in which sustainable success is created through a meaningful sense of purpose and by creating the right environment in which individuals can flourish. Gurnek is regularly asked to speak at conferences and leadership summits and has appeared in HR Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People. He has a doctorate in psychology from Oxford University. For more information about YSC visit the website
  • For more information about Cultural DNA, please visit: Wiley

Counselling for Toads – A Psychological adventure – Robert de Board

Ok, I’m going a little off Piste with this one as it’s not a leadership book per se but bear with me. It is my belief that if you understand yourself better, you will have a better understanding of your impact on others, why you react the way you do with others and how you can change it for the better to benefit you and the people you live with or work with on a daily basis. Therefore, becoming a better leader.

I was recommended this book many years ago by a friend of mine, an expert in learning and leadership. She explained how it had opened her mind to analysing her own feelings so I just had to give it a go. Whilst the book suggests it is appropriate for anyone approaching counselling, whether as a student, client or counsellor this book will appeal to adults of all ages whatever walk of life or sector of business you are from. In my experience as a leader, a manager, a friend and a mother, I have had to do a lot of involuntary counselling in my time. This book makes you look inwards as well as outwards. It is my opinion that the book would also benefit anyone willing to learn more about emotional intelligence, as again in my opinion, being a good Leader is about knowing when to use your IQ or your EQ or both!

I detest long laborious books that waffle on, but this book is short, only 153 pages long, easy to read and compelling enough that most people – even those who are easily bored by books, like me – would finish it! I found the book humorous in parts, captivating and very thought provoking.

The story’s characters are taken from the Wind and the Willows. Each chapter is devoted to one of Toad’s counselling sessions with Heron. The method used by Heron is ‘transactional analysis’. Toad learns that he has suppressed the anger he felt as a child and therefore Heron helps him through a process of reflection and change to recognise and discard the Child Ego State that Toad is constantly in and make positive progress in his life.

In a simple and easy to understand way, the book introduces some basic concepts about the different psychological states that exist within our heads and how they can affect our day to day lives, beliefs and our interactions with others. It starts to show you that by recognising why you react the way you do, you can change the way you behave for the better.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. As I said, not your straight forward badged ‘leadership’ book, but one that will make you stop and think as an individual, a parent, a manager or a leader!

Jayne Stokes
Company Secretary
The Leaders Club

Lean In: Women Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

3 days after I finished reading Lean In: Women Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg I’d already recommended it to my sister, sister-in law and closest friend and since writing this review I’ve probably recommended it to handfuls more acquaintances. Sheryl Sandberg is the type of woman you admire, want to be, or at least want to be friends with. She is an inspiration. I apologise now to anyone that knows me – I am likely to “bang on” about this book for quite some time.

Those that do know me, or read my last book review know that I am pretty cynical, especially when it comes to Leadership books or self-help material. I had Lean In on my Kindle since it came out last year and have had very little desire to read it. I purchased it because it fitted in well with The Leaders Club theme of “Women in Business; Where the level playing field”, but as it had not been recommended to me I presumed it was going to be a standard mantra of how to juggle it all, and a guilt trip if you are not succeeding in your juggling antics.

It is not. It is an extremely well thought out and researched view on women’s and men’s place in the modern world. It questions why women aren’t in more leadership roles, obviously tackling sexual discrimination but also investigating social barriers, the barriers that women create for themselves and the invisible ties that can be broken if we want them to be. Sandberg professes that the status quo isn’t acceptable, and how it may be too late to make real change in this generation, but as mothers (and fathers, and aunts and uncles..) it is our responsibility to assist that change for the next. In her mind there is no excuse to not be striving for true 50/50 equality.

Sandberg managed to spark my interest from the very first page and maintain it throughout. I did not speed-read the book but savoured its narrative. Sandberg is obviously a highly intelligent mind; credited for being a driving force behind Google’s move from billions on paper, to billions in the bank, and 5 years ago taking her experience to Facebook to transform them into a cash generating business instead of a social novelty. You don’t get to be COO of Facebook without strong intelligence; and in this book, and in her preceding TedTalk Sandberg uses her intelligence to pose thought provoking questions, and answers, to how women are perceived in society, how we perceive ourselves, and how if these unnecessary stereotypical constraints where not in place how the world could benefit from 100% of its intelligent species, rather than the meagre usage we are currently employ.

Throughout the book I often nodded at Sandberg forethought and smiled at her candid appreciation how we have got to where we are today; the assumptions put upon men and women at search an early age that transpire and transcend through society and life and the unnecessary limitations that women put on themselves.

The day after I finished Lean-in I met a friend who has just gone back to work after Maternity leave, and who is applying for a new high powered position; a position she deserves, is more than capable of getting ans succeeding in. She was doing what women do best, playing down their current successes, worrying about changes that haven’t occurred yet, and presuming that if she got the position that it was her how would be having to make all the necessary adjustments in order to remain at being a great mother, wife, friend, sister, lover… Of course, I told her about my new favourite subject: Lean-in. “Read the book” I cried. “What every you do, before the interview please read the book And make sure Dave reads it as well”. I have actually now ordered her, and me, a hard back copy so that she has no excuses.

As I read this on the Kindle I couldn’t flick through the pages to see what was coming next. About half way through, noticing I still had 50% and I was worried. I was thoroughly enjoying it, but Sandberg had said all that was needed to say, dragging it on would ruin it for me. However the last 45% of the book is full of citations and reference points for the hundreds of facts and figures and survey results quoted throughout. The research is current and relevant, adding weight to the book and providing you with the feeling that you are not being given a feminist pep talk, but instead being presented with unequivocal facts.

This book will stay with me, and I am certain I will read it again. I tend to by throw-away books on the kindle, but I have already ordered a hard back copy so that I can read it at leisure in the future. So that I remind myself of the sense that Sandberg pens, at my own foibles and ingrained behaviour, and my responsibility to change it to help build a true 50/50 equality in the future.
I encourage everyone to read it.

Sandberg’s TedTalk can be found at http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders
Review by Shona Fletcher

The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World by Frans Johansson

This is the first book review I have ever written, so before putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard I made the mistake of looking at other reviews on this book. Oh, had I missed something?  Overwhelmingly critics and the general public seem to love this book.  So why had I struggled to stay interested, why did I feel slightly patronised, and why do I feel though it could have been condensed into something half the size while still maintaining the interesting bits?

At this point I should probably let you into a little secret.  I am not a massive fan of Leadership literature and self help books. So when I was asked to write some book reviews for the TLC website I cringed.  In this genre I tend to read half of the first chapter and get bored because most of them are simply common sense and could be edited into something the size of a pamphlet. I don’t think I’ve ever found one I’ve read the whole way through. That said I seem to buy quite a few of them! And on analysing my Kindle I realised there are at least 7 on there that I have never got round to reading, or even starting.

Maybe the issue is that I come from a Leadership and Management training background.  I have been luckily enough to have fantastic L&M training material at my finger tips for the last 6 years of my working life.  Therefore I haven’t needed to read the latest “Daniel Pink” book, because my network of excellent facilitators will have truncated his information, pulled out the best bits, got rid of the waffle and turned them into fabulous and insightful learning.
However, maybe I am approaching these books in the wrong way.  Instead of taking them as life lessons maybe I should be enjoying them for what they are, relishing in the musings and over-analysis of life and digesting the anecdotes so that I can bore friends at dinner parties with my plethora of interesting business yarns.
Or maybe I’ll just sum the books up and do the hard work so you don’t have to.

The Click Moment:
This book is a plethora of anecdotes, and case studies of success and failure, both personal and corporate, and those parts are thoroughly enjoyable.

The concept that Johansson has put forward is that Life is full of what he calls “Click Moments”. Those moments where certain decisions or actions can impact your life, or the world, forever. The book posses the question, How can you encourage randomness and therefore incorporate it into business strategy in order to succeed?  Johansson tries to some extent to suggest ways to encourage these moments, to see them when they arrive and take advantage of them. But this is not an easy feat because if there was a definitive strategy for encouraging randomness and incorporating it into your life or business strategy then Frans would be a very rich man.

The first 40% of the book is purely stories, intertwined with an annoying Channel 4 type structure of reminding us what we have just read, hinting at what we are about to read, and attempting to keep us hooked on the promise that all will be revealed in some sort of all encumbering strategy.  Ignoring this slightly patronising structure and repetitiveness the content is a good read.  But I don’t believe it’s teaching anything new or suggesting anything more than common sense. More worrying is that some of the anecdotes are only loosely proving the concept that Johansson puts forward, and some in my mind are shoe-horned in to the theory.  One of the stories that is repeated a number of time is that of Diane von Furstenberg getting the idea for the wrap dress because she happened to be watching television when the presidents daughter happened to be wearing a wrap top with a skirt. But this doesn’t explain the success of her design, because of course that had numerous factors at play – marketing, collateral, energy, drive, a consumer appetite.

What Johansson suggests are a number of ways to encourage click moments, to embrace randomness to be able to see and seize opportunities and take risks to encourage them occurring.   This is all very useful, but there is no need to take so long to get to these suggestions  and when we do get there the recommendations are patchy and often the accompanying story is only a partial truth.   The element that really bugged me though was the suggestion that success is random. Of course, life is random and unpredictable, and all of us can easily miss opportunities my not paying attention, or not being open to suggestion, but the idea that success is random is a step too far for me.  Sure, there are lots of contributing factors to a person or companies success, but that doesn’t make that success random.

To sum up, I would say that book is full of nice stories, common sense but no insight.  I certainly cant see elements of this ending up on an MBA learning curriculum or any Business Skills courses in future.

Shona Fletcher
Business Development Director, Escalla
Director, The Leaders Club

Shackleton’s Way

Shackleton’s Way – Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell

Let me start by telling you that I have absolutely no interest at all in the Antarctic, exploring it or otherwise, but to say I was gripped by ‘Shackleton’s Way’ is an understatement!

This is not a new leadership book, but its values and learning hold true still today.  I first read this book in early 2002, as I was just starting my journey as a ‘leader’. I am a fickle reader and if a book doesn’t grip me within the first 10 pages then that’s it, tossed aside and never likely to be picked up again. Thankfully, this was not one of those books. I am sure that many of you have read this book, if you haven’t as yet had the privilege, please make it the next book you read.

The authors have not only managed to fully capture and analyse Shackleton’s timeless leadership skills they have managed to present it in such a way that anyone can understand and apply it. They have managed to keep the full force of this true remarkable story of how Shackleton helped save the life’s of his 27 man crew, after they survived the wreck of their ship for almost 2 years, so that you are gripped throughout, whilst teaching you the reader in the process and you’re not even aware of it!

If you are just starting your own leadership journey, or believe you are never too old or too experienced to learn, this book is a must for you!

Jayne Stokes
Company Secretary
The Leaders Club