Book Review: Fish Can’t See Water

Kai Hammerich and Richard D Lewis question the seismic shift of success from West to East and attempt to gauge the success of these companies through the lens of culture.

For the longest time, the global corporate world believed that ‘the business of America was business’.

This was not an entirely wrong assumption as State-side corporate strategies tended to be heavily results- oriented and ruled the global stage during the twentieth century.

However that scenario has since undergone a drastic change. Today companies like Samsung, Toyota and Nokia rule the roost along with their American and European counterparts, heralding the entry of the emerging markets as a stakeholder in the global economy.

Kai Hammerich and Richard D Lewis question this seismic shift and attempt to gauge the success of these companies through the lens of culture.

Through various case studies and examples of corporate success from both the emerging markets and the West, the authors cleverly guide the readers into their core subjects of corporate strategy and culture, which might be seemingly unrelated at the outset but have deep implications for a successful business.

Aptly named Fish Can’t See Water, Hammerich and Lewis point out various observations about how different companies adopt their national cultures into their strategies but are unaware of doing so. Just like how a culture cannot be inherently right or wrong, the corporate strategy too might work for or against the company.

Presented through a series of case studies, the book examines how the various nation-states’ traits affect the corporate strategies of the companies. It also dwells on the effects that a national culture can have at the various stages of a lifecycle of a corporation and clearly points out that every culture can be either detrimental or instrumental at a certain stages in a corporate lifecycle.

Fish Can’t See Water is also armed with advice for investors, board members and management about the aspects of culture that can derail a company,
along with pointers about how culture can be used to one’s advantage when formulating corporate strategy.

With case studies from Asia, Europe and the US, the book offers a thorough insight into how even the smallest of cultural traits can affect businesses immensely.

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