It has been a long week and we are ready to relax and watch a movie with some friends. Jay and his wife are hosting a group of couples and they have spared no expense to make the evening perfect. There is a cooler outside full of iced down miller lite, and several bottles of champagne are chilled in anticipation of the big movie night. The island counter has a crock-pot with steaming meatballs filling the air with that fresh Italian, basil and garlic smell. Jay summons a few of us to the “media room”, where he has a wall full of DVD movies. There must be a thousand or more carefully categorized by theme. There are so many choices it is almost overwhelming for the group to decide. As I looked at the wall of digital video disc (DVD), I could not help but think back to the days of hopping in the car and taking my kids to the Block Buster Video and how a once dominant company no-longer exists.
It seems obvious to a casual observer today that Block Buster should have pivoted their model and went to a subscription based digital delivery such as Netflix, Hulu, or Sling. How could something that seems so obvious in hindsight have been missed? The answer is shockingly simple, the basic communication process failed. Communication is defined “as interpersonal acts that exchange meaning and information (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2013, p.126),”(PSU WC, 2020). There were members of management that did see the pivot in the industry and warned senior leadership of the pending doom. Several countries such as China, Japan, and India were already experimenting with digital methods of delivery. In the United States, Napster was delivering music online for free and movies soon followed. There were eventually lawsuits and other copy right issues that would lead to trouble with Napster however, the new delivery model was right before their eyes.
Communication may not be as simple as one person exchanging meaning and information to another. As it turns out there are many pitfalls that can wreak havoc on an intended communication exchange. The potential disruptions or biases are exacerbated when we consider the Global aspects of todays’ economies. When we introduce groups or cross languages or cultures there are additional considerations that must be included.
In Countries like China and Saudi Arabia relationships are important prior to conducting business, this is known as “slow messaging” communication (Abramson & Moran, p.43). Canada and the US are considered “fast messaging” communication cultures and it is acceptable solicit strangers via email (Abramson & Moran, p.43). “A persons’ culture influences how language is formed, how the linguistic communication is understood, and impacts how the language is constructed” (Abramson & Moran, p.49). High-context cultures assumes the person receiving the communication knows the background and less need to be explained (Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Spain are examples high-context cultures). Low context culture like the US and Canada assume receivers need more information and context around the communication (Abrams * Moran, p.51).
There are many other factors that must be considered, the process can be so complex there are models of communication to help senders and receivers understand the basic encoding and decoding of messages (PSU, WC, 2020).
Leaders and global leaders must first and foremost be learners (Abrams & Moran, p. 110). Leaders and followers are influenced by the genetic heritages, which leads for opportunities to learn, train, and develop (Abramson & Moran, p.110). Because we are deeply influenced by our surroundings as we develop, we must remain vigilant and geocentric. If the Block Buster leadership team would have remained open to learning and created a culture that embraced and encouraged the same attitude they may still exist and be a competitive digital provider. Keep learning and working on communication skills, do not be polycentric and closed to integrating other ideas, whether they be local or global. Embrace the learning as an opportunity to train and develop. Do not be a Block Buster!
Abramson, N.R., Moran, R.T. (2018). Managing cultural differences: Global leadership for the 21st century. New York, NY: Routledge.
Pennsylvania State University WC (2020). Leadership in global context—OLEAD 410 [Online course]. L04 Global communication. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2075490/assignments/11954486