On The Business Of Cultural Arbitrage

If you want something from someone – it could be anyone, there is one way, and only one way, to go about accomplishing that; which is to make that person want to give it to you. Granted, you can pistol whip somebody and snatch their gold chains, or even trick someone nefariously into sleeping with you, but you will never build any lasting relationships and will most likely end up dead or in the gaol. This profound, yet simple principle is the basic foundation of every and any negotiation setting, stripped to the core, yet so few are capable of putting it into practice and instead choose to make themselves the main focus of attention.

The challenge with doing cross-culture business, naturally, are the communication barriers. Understanding what is truly being said is already tough, changing the language between the two parties makes it even harder. Convincing, on the other hand, is next to impossible, since the art of persuasion entails a harmonized perfection in one’s cadence and diction, rather than simply just communicating an idea.

The primary school of thought among youngsters nowadays, a mentality that has been buttressed and promulgated by media, is that technology is the solution. Billions are spent on teams of incredibly smart computer scientists to create fool-proof translation devices, which undoubtedly function as they should, but ultimately cannot and will not solve the underlying problem – which is convincing someone to want something. At an elementary level, these devices work like a charm. One can confidently narrate the events of their day in their language of choice with little to no misinterpretation. But when it comes to negotiation, these devices create more confusion than good, as the emotion and real-time rhythm in your speech is ripped apart and rendered meaningless by the monotonous dialogue – an inescapable derivative of those devices.

Ideally, one creates true partnerships by offering what is needed by the other party, a constant across any culture. The same way that a man is far more successful in seducing his woman by becoming the man that she wants rather than by expressing how much he loves her, businesses are dying for partners concerned about their well-being – a rarity in today’s environment and even more so internationally. In that respect, money too, is in constant search for an environment where it can grow, and displays nothing but indifference towards those that dream about it.

Beneath the surface, there is an unlimited amount of wealth to be made through cultural arbitrage. There are few companies in the world that would not jump at the opportunity to expand internationally, the current system is simply not transparent enough for them to trust. In that sense, companies like Alibaba have done a remarkable job filling the void, and have amassed a fortune in the process, but there still remains, however, plenty of space for opportunists like us to lace deals and I’d be remiss if I wasn’t involved. The degree of success decidedly relies on a single factor; can we refashion a proven concept in a way that would be desirable elsewhere? or will we be caught up inadvertently preaching the wonders of what we have to offer, spat back out and ultimately crushed by the weight of own hubris.