Saturday, March 22, 2008

US vs. Euro business attitudes

Here's an interesting take on American and European approaches to business:

When we [i.e., Americans] see a pie and conclude that our slice is too small, we typically come up with one of two strategies: make the pie bigger (sector expansion, usually through innovation), or bake a whole new pie (entrepreneurship).

Europeans by comparison, and with a few exceptions, almost always settle upon two very different strategies: either wheel and deal to make your slice a little bit bigger (mergers and partnerships) or limit the number of people allowed to eat pie (protectionism). And when it comes to the latter, one of the most common ways to do that is to keep out the bloody Americans.

Centuries of history seem to be reflected in those attitudes: America's history of expansion across the wild frontier still echoes in modern consciousness, making the idea of pie-enlargement both plausible and desirable. Setting up camp on one's own plot of ground and starting anew-- again hinting at the ethos (however mythologized) of the frontiersman-- is the very essence of enterprise.

Europeans, on the other hand, have had a much longer history of living in the din of each other's presence. European civilization touches on the Mediterranean as well; the ideas of negotiation and protectionism would come easily to minds awash in the push-pull culture of an uneasy and long-standing pluralism marked by both pleasant and unpleasant encounters with the Other.

But because I don't want to be accused of accepting the writer's pie imagery uncritically, I hereby open the floor to commenters with actual experience in the matter to pick apart the writer's perspective on how things are.

The above-linked article, which I encourage you to read, is about recent adjudication against Google's Gmail in a Belgian court because of the existence of the much lesser-known G-Mail, an email system established before Gmail by a German company. Google had been hoping to acquire a "right to use" in the EU. This most recent adjudication against Google marks the second such rejection; Google plans to appeal.


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