Attitudes, Values and Aesthetics in International Business (Research Within)

An attitude refers to the way we behave to something or to any stimulus. It reflects the different characteristics of an individual towards something. We all have attitudes which can form the basis of our personality. One important concept about attitude is that a good amount of attitudes is built up in the early stages of the life of an individual. These attitudes are partly based on our own experience of life, on parental influence, on peer influence or from reference groups or from environmental factors. A social attitude is an acquired tendency to evaluate social things in a specific way. It is characterised by positive or negative beliefs, feelings and behaviours towards a particular entity. Social attitude has three main components: emotional, cognitive and behavioural. Attitudes are consistent and enduring, that is, once they are learned, they tend to characterise our way of behaving and our personality as well. Nevertheless, with time and experience, our attitudes may change as we mature. For example, we could have been too uncaring and shy during childhood. At adulthood stage, we may learn that we must look after things or be outgoing to some extent.

International business requires the need for managers to learn attitudes and values from the different environments where they are operating. They definitely require tolerance and acceptance from managers. European and western managers usually face the problem of adjustment in different environments. For this reason, it is accepted that managers must learn about attitudes and values in different environments. There are various societal attitudes towards a range of aspects namely work and achievement, time, family, authority, risk and change. In today’s world, there might also be attitudes towards gender and sexuality. There are trends taking place both in the developed world and emerging economies. The difference might be better marked in developing countries that are either tradition bound or might be less caring of certain values. The business manager then learns the differences between a linear-active culture that rests upon a high degree of formalisation and a multi-active culture, more predominant in emerging economies, that seeks less formality and more relations and customisations. These do impact business practice in an international setting.

Attitudes towards work and achievement

Let us consider the attitudes of different types of people towards work and achievement. Here, we are taking the risk to make generalisations about attitudes among different communities in the world. Living in a capitalist country with consumerist values might indicate that people would only view value in terms that can be monetised, but this is not necessarily the case. While the marketing minds who help power consumerism are extremely adept at identifying ideas or movements, this relationship responds to the powerful authenticity generated by independent and charismatic individuals working against the grain. And endeavours that have no intrinsic value, which are undertaken purely for the joy of doing them, continue to stay one step ahead of efforts to sell unnecessary products. In such a world, achievements that are difficult but have no utility become especially admirable .

Attitudes towards time

Few Northern Europeans or North Americans can reconcile themselves to the multi-active use of time. Germans and Swiss, unless they reach an understanding of the underlying psychology, will be driven to distraction. Germans see compartmentalisation of programmes, schedules, procedures and production as the surest route to efficiency. The Swiss, even more time and regulation dominated, have made precision a national symbol. This applies to their watch industry, their optical instruments, their pharmaceutical products, their banking. Planes, buses and trains leave on the dot. Accordingly, everything can be exactly calculated and predicted. In countries inhabited by linear-active people, time is clock and calendar-related, segmented in an abstract manner for our convenience, measurement, and disposal. In multi-active cultures like the Arab and Latin spheres, time is event or personality-related, a subjective commodity which can be manipulated, moulded, stretched, or dispensed with, irrespective of what the clock says.

Attitudes towards change and risk

The concept of risk is essentially a modern one. In ancient and mediaeval societies, the idea of risk management would never have arisen and fortune was attributed to luck, fate or ‘acts of God’. Giddens has demonstrated that the concept of risk is now central to our society and he defines risk as being different to danger or hazard in that it is related to our impact on our environment and stems directly from the consequences of our actions on the world. Such a concept could only have arisen in a society bent on controlling the future. Giddens also stresses that the notion of risk is positive as well as negative and cites the example that the whole rationale behind western capitalism is based on the calculation of future risk.

Attitudes towards family

In the modern world, most communities are moving towards the nuclear type of family. Some communities however have values and cultural beliefs which encourage them to retain elder members of the family at home. Family structures have undeniably changed, moving away from the conventional family model. Nowadays more mothers work outside of the home, more fathers are asked to help with housework, and more women are choosing to have children solo. Today there are families that have a mom and a dad living in the same home, there are step-families, and families that have just a mother or just a father.

Attitudes towards authority

Authority refers to the power in force in a country. Some societies, because of their strict laws, tend to be more authoritative than others. In general, each community in the world must have respect for the authority. Some attitudes may be inborn in terms of high level of respect that people need to have. In other cases, whether formal rules exist or not, the attitude can vary both in rich countries and emerging nations. Unrest in the Arabian world known as the Arab Spring and the Yellow Jacket movement in France are two clear examples of how people might develop reactive attitude to authority depending upon situations. The classical one took place in the Tian An Men Square in 1989 in China but repressive measures killed such reaction.

South Korean society operates according to Confucian values. These state that people should respect authority, respect the collective, behave virtuously, work hard and learn hard, avoid extremes and live moderately. A business manager will find that, if he can demonstrate these qualities, he will be more successful in your business relationships.

Perspective

African cultural values

In Africa, actions speak louder than words, especially if there is a barrier between languages. In an effort to contextualise and be mindful of a complex mind-set and worldview, here are a few African cultural values to be aware of when travelling in Africa!

Greeting—Hello and a handshake

Greeting people in Africa is one of the most important things you can do. A quick ‘hello,’ paired with a handshake is a sufficient way to make a positive first impression with anyone.

Show respect to elders

African cultural values are based on a foundation of the past and present, a leading reason why elders are so well respected. Always acknowledge an elder, let them ask questions, and during mealtime elders should be served first.

Eat with the right hand

You might have heard this before, the right hand is for eating food and the left hand is reserved for the unsanitary task of what happens afterward. Whatever you do, don’t touch African food with your left hand!

Silence is an African Value

Don’t be alarmed or nervous with spans of silence during African conversation. When there’s something to be said, it will be said; when there’s nothing to be said, silence is perfectly fine. There’s no need to feel uneasy during a period of silence in Africa, take the time just to enjoy the presence of others.’

Less importance given to time

Despite the use of clocks to tell ‘what time it is,’ African clocks work differently; things fall into place as they unfold. An African worldview does not focus far into the future, but dwells more on past events and whatever is happening currently. Future scheduled times can’t be rushed and thinking so will only make one more and more frustrated.

Positive communication

Positive communication is a key African cultural value. Along with not displaying public negativity there are countless ways to express “good,” or “ok.” Don’t immediately get into a discussion about a hardship or struggle, these topics can be gradually being brought forth.

Relationships matter

With future-time a little less important, current time is of extreme value. Meeting people and spending time with others to develop lasting relationships is an aspect of African culture that is truly cherished.

Points to ponder

Moving to Africa for business matters especially when it relates to developing the right attitude in some countries. Time might not be highly valued but respect for elders and authority matter. The importance of communications and relationships are essential for effective business.

Influence on aesthetics in international business

Aesthetics refer to everything which is concerned with beauty and attractiveness. In all human beings, there is some concern with regards to aesthetics. When we purchase a product, we want to choose one which is appealing to our eyes and which pleases us. In this way, we pay attention to aesthetics.

Whatever possessions we want to have refer to aesthetics. If you are thinking about a car that you wish to have, you might think of its design, colour and look. If you are planning to furnish your living room, you would like to have a special set of sofa, nice decorations on the wall and a pleasant colour to enliven the room.

At international business level, business people must understand the importance aesthetics play in the life of a person. Each country has its own perception of aesthetics though the cultural environment may differ from one country to another one. Some countries might have the preference for strong colours and an attachment to symbols, others may be show less attachment to colour because of cultural differences among countries.

Architecture and Aesthetics

Aesthetics could also be linked with the corporate identity of businesses. New buildings are constructed worldwide with a view to developing something different from existing ones, The case of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, is a good example of bridging aesthetics with business where it is seen that the appeal for beauty and design fits in well the concept of a modern and vibrant business centre in the Arabian world.

Perspective

A potted history of Dubai architecture

Dubai’s transformation from fishing village to global business hub has impressed the world – for its innovation, sheer speed and dynamism. Nowhere is the progress more evident than in the emirate’s architecture. But now it could be the case that the city’s architecture is at a crossroads, an inflection point, as there is a gradual shift from grand to green, and from imposing to approachable. How did we get here?

Back in the 1960s and much of the 1970s, Dubai’s charming traditional architecture with its narrow alleys and wind tower houses still bore testimony to its Bedouin heritage. Dubai was a port town then, and trading was a mainstay of the economy. The typical image of Dubai in the late 1970s and even into the 1980s was of simple low-rise building.

In the years that followed, the influence of architecture has broadened out to create connections across the design sector in Dubai. Local companies in collaboration with intrepid European designers experiment with new forms of architecture, including luxury low-rise floating homes. The recent rise of walkable communities and eco-friendly projects has cemented Dubai’s reputation for constantly reinventing itself.

While Dubai has always been associated with a penchant for luxury, the growing popularity of ecologically sustainable and integrated built environments reflects a shift in consumers’ and the industry’s perception of the new age of design in the city. Today, architects and interior designers in the region are increasingly opting for recycled materials in their cutting-edge designs, with woven vinyl flooring, reconstituted stone and consciously sourced upholstery taking centre stage.

Points to ponder

Dubai has always been associated with a penchant for luxury but there is the growing popularity of ecologically sustainable and integrated built environments which reflects a shift in consumers’ and the industry’s perception of the new age of design in the city. These also reflect on Dubai’s attraction for regional and international business.

Colours, symbols and forms

Colours, symbols and forms characterise the diversity and cultural uniqueness that exists in the world. Ancient races had attached lots of symbolism to the aesthetics. For example, the African witch doctor used to dress himself up in different colours just to create a feeling of fear and submission with his patients. The Indian chieftain had feathers on his head in order to represent the dignity his followers had bestowed upon him.

Forms also represent an element of aesthetics. For example, African art relies on figures that are in general black, shiny and a little elongated. Chinese culture may use forms which are rounded. European culture may be more concerned with forms that reflect reality (beaux arts) or abstract forms (abstract art).

Colour meanings in business

Red

Red gives people the signal to act. When using Red in business, use it as an accent colour to tempt buyers to buy on an impulse. A touch of red to a website can help portray the business as energy—driven and exciting.

Orange

Using orange in business suggests adventure, fun and travel. It is a beneficial colour for hotels travel companies and resorts and can stimulate social communication. Orange is friendlier, approachable and less aggressive than red.

Yellow

Colour experts recommend yellow for use in children’s industry as this colour’s meanings include stimulation, creativity and wisdom. Yellow could also be used in promoting point of sale purchases especially when you want the customer’s attention quickly.

Green

No other colour meanings in business symbolise growth and abundance as much as Green. It is used invariably to advertise safety in drugs and medicines as well as a sign of vegetarianism. Green represents nature, prosperity and money.

Blue

Stability and depth are the best meanings of colour. Blue as far as its business usage is concerned. Most conservative corporate businesses have blue in some form or the other in their logos, business cards and brochures etc. Similarly, communication, hi-tech, computer products, water industry, etc. also always use blue.

White

The use of white colour meaning in business is cleanliness and hygiene. It indicates calm, simplicity and organization.

Black

Luxury, elegance and sophistication-thy name is black. Black is used for selling and marketing to youth audiences; hence music industry likes to use it to portray style and trendiness. Black is best when combined with jewel colours like ruby, turquoise and gold etc.

In the following table, we will cast a glance at the perception of colours, symbols and forms with reference to aesthetics on international business. It is noted that each variable has a symbolic value whether it is colour, symbol or form. There is also importance given to food that forms part of the cultural identity of the different nations highlighted below.

Music and folklore

Music and folklore are very important assets for countries as they distinguish them from another one. Both the East and the West attach high importance to music and folklore through costumes, songs. Hereunder, we are casting a glance at such issues. Note that only the most popular names or musical types are included. An appreciation of music and folklore enriches humanity. This aspect may have a low potential in business terms yet it needs to be appreciated in terms of cultural identity and differentiation. It is well-known that western music and arts predominate common international culture and this may be viewed as some cultural invasion that might weaken local identity. France, for example, insists that French exception applies within the country’s limits because of the need to preserve the uniqueness of local culture. Other nations like India or Nigeria might be highly influenced by western arts and blend certain components with their local cultures.

Perspective

The Importance of aesthetics in business

In the world of business people sometimes tend to oversee the importance of image and branding. Needless to say, a company’s image and brand is one of the most important factors in their success. Image and branding is just one of the many components that a company needs to be successful. This along with management, finance, customer service and innovation are among the essential contributors to a company’s progress.

A company’s image can be tied to a lot of elements. These include, advertising, marketing, public relations and customer service. A company should never overlook the idea of branding their business because it tantaliSes the most important sense of a person’s sight. Believe it or not, aesthetic plays a vital role in business. Aesthetics could spell the difference between a successful transaction and an unsuccessful one. Just think McDonald’s and its competitors, Coca Cola vs. Pepsi and Apple vs. other computer brands. You will notice that companies like Coca Cola, Apple and McDonald’s all emphasise the beauty and appeal of their brand, their products and their image to the greater community. Part of the reason as to why these companies are very successful is because people perceive their products as beautiful. Image initially strikes us. It is then followed up be a good product, and the process repeats itself.

In the end, image and company branding are just a few factors to take note of. It is however, very important in getting a customer’s attention. It is not enough that a product stands out. It has to stand out because it looks great.

Points to ponder

In the world of business people sometimes tend to oversee the importance of image and branding. Aesthetics could spell the difference between a successful transaction and an unsuccessful one. Companies are very successful is because people perceive their products as beautiful.

Case Study: Aesthetics in business practice

During hard economic times, you would expect consumers to look for bargains and be less concerned with amenities—and companies to respond with low prices and plain products and services. Companies have discovered what Starbucks learned long ago. Nowadays, customers don’t want just fuel. They want pleasure—good food in an aesthetically appealing environment.

Competition and a slow economy may drive down prices, but it also raises expectations—not just for service, function, and reliability, but for sensory experience. ‘Look and feel’ increasingly drives economic value. Businesses today face an aesthetic imperative. Style can no longer be an afterthought. It has become a critical source of product identity and economic value. The desire for interesting, enjoyable, and meaningful sensory experiences is everywhere. Starbucks is to the age of aesthetics what McDonald’s was to the age of convenience or Ford was to the age of mass production. It’s the touchstone, the pioneer others seek to imitate.

For businesses, aesthetics is not a matter of esoteric art theory. It’s the way we communicate through the senses, the art of creating reactions without words. Aesthetics is the way we make the world around us special. Successful businesses understand that aesthetics is more pervasive than it used to be — not restricted to a social, economic, or artistic elite, or limited to only a few settings or industries, or designed to communicate only power, influence, and wealth.

Formerly bland malls try to emulate the sumptuousness of upscale hotel lobbies. Well-designed restaurants extend their attention to look and feel into their restrooms. As suburban tract homes routinely incorporate granite and marble (whose prices have dropped because of new supplies and fabricating equipment), hotels must follow suit. Aesthetics is not just for places. Computers, for example, all used to look pretty much the same. Now they, too, can be special.

The drive for aesthetic value is creating opportunity throughout the supply chain. ‘At the GE Plastics design centre in Selkirk, New York, customers’ industrial designers and marketers brainstorm and develop new products, ranging from razors to car bumpers, inspired by new materials. Since 1995, GE Plastics has introduced 20 new visual effects. Its heavy-duty engineered thermoplastics can now emulate metal, stone, marble, or mother-of-pearl; they can diffuse light or change colours depending on the viewer’s perspective; they can be embedded with tiny, sparkling glass fragments.

Aesthetic plenty creates new challenges for companies. The more they incorporate aesthetics into their products and services, the higher customers’ expectations become. Like every other measure of quality, aesthetics offers innovators a short-term advantage. But in a competitive market, investing in aesthetics isn’t a sure route to profits. It’s a cost of staying in the game.

Questions

Explain the concept that competition raises expectations for the sensory experience. How does the drive for aesthetic value is creating opportunity throughout the supply chain? Compare the benefits and challenges of adopting aesthetics in business. Submit studentwork@learnforthuniversity.com