Saturday, January 21, 2012

How they eat, How they do business!

My job has taken me places, literally. My job ensures I have to visit atleast one other city apart from my home city every month. My team is very small but multi cultural.  I also like to try the local food every time I travel.
Once after a stressful day, I was at  a dinner table in an intense discussion with my colleagues about how we should have handled the meeting earlier in the day. We were dealing with an Asian client, during the meeting we had taken an extremely rational approach. We had laid out the challenge and outlined various smaller issues surrounding it. We had cut the issue in smaller pieces making the easiest to bite. To our surprise, client did not approve of our handling at all. He wanted us to take a softer approach, deal with the issue in totality, treat every underlying issue to its merit rather than cutting them into pieces.
Just as the discussion was getting hotter and getting nowhere our food arrived. Some of my colleagues got ready with their chopsticks, others  got ready with their knife and forks. Those using knife and fork cut the food into smaller pieces making them easier to bite. Those using chopsticks caressed the food, handled each chunk of meat dealt with it as a whole piece rather than cutting it. Their handling of food was much softer exactly as our client had suggested.
No body spoke a word during the dinner but everyone realized what the client was trying to say.  We were taking fork and knife approach and our client was asking us to use chopsticks.
We got over the situation in no time at all the next day, but this incident lingered in my mind since then. I started observing and correlating how food is ordered, decorated and served to how they do business. To my surprise, I found amazing similarities between food and business, right from the menu card to food presentation to the way it is consumed.
In this blog series, I will try to share these observations for Japanese, Korean, Malaysian and Indian eating habits and business practices. First let us start with Japanese food, in my next blog.
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