Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Culture and technology adoption

The adaptation and frequency of use of various technologies is based to a great extent on national cultural factors. But I think that while adoption of a technology may -- at times -- be ubiquitous across all members of a national culture, it's intensity of use is often very sporadic, with "power usage" being limited to a few demo/psychographic groups. In the US we all have microwave ovens, but I am willing to bet there are very few "power users" of them. We all have cell phones, but only certain segments of the population use SMS "texting" with any level of comfort. We all have the potential to IM, but some use it constantly, others turn it off. We all have VCR's but many of us can't even program them to record. It seems that everyone has an SUV, yet nobody ever goes off-road.. In the US at least, the national culture is often "gotta have it" rather than "gotta use it"; we consume the tools but not their applications.

It is true that corporate culture, when exported, often does not overcome local culture. Where I have found corporate cultures that appear partially at odds with (my perception of) local culture, it has rarely been because of some value system or behavior norms exported by a foreign parent. More often, it has been a strong set of norms inculcated within a company by one or more strong, influential leaders and his/her acolytes. Corporate culture is based on a bottom-up foundation, but it is molded by top-down examples. Respect for punctuality and respect for those whose time you waste when not punctual is either a strongly manifested corporate value or it is not -- no matter where in the world you may be.

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