David Livermore

“Finally, every society develops a system of aesthetic standards that get manifested in everything from decorative art, music, and dance to the architecture and planning of buildings and communities. There are many different ways we could examine artistic systems. One way of thinking about it is to observe the degree to which a society's aesthetics reflect clear lines and solid boundaries versus fluid ones. Many Western cultures favor clean, tight boundaries whereas many Eastern cultures prefer more fluid, indiscriminate lines. In most Western homes, kitchen drawers are organized so that forks are with forks and knives are with knives. The walls of a room are usually uniform in color, and when a creative shift in color does occur, it usually happens at a corner or along a straight line midway down the wall. Pictures are framed with straight edges, molding covers up seams in the wall, and lawns are edged to form a clear line between the sidewalk and the lawn. Why? Because we view life in terms of classifications, categories, and taxonomies. And cleanliness itself is largely defined by the degree of order that exists. It has little to do with sanitation and far more to do with whether things appear to be in their proper place. Maintaining boundaries is essential in the Western world; otherwise categories begin to disintegrate and chaos sets in.13 Most Americans want dandelion-free lawns and roads with clear lanes prescribing where to drive and where not to drive. Men wear ties to cover the adjoining fabric on the shirts that they put on before going to the symphony, where they listen to classical music based on a scale with seven notes and five half steps. Each note has a fixed pitch, defined in terms of the lengths of the sound waves it produces.14 A good performance occurs when the musicians hit the notes precisely. In contrast, many Eastern cultures have little concern in everyday life for sharp boundaries and uniform categories. Different colors of paint may be used at various places on the same wall. And the paint may well “spill” over onto the window glass and ceiling. Meals are a fascinating array of ingredients where food is best enjoyed when mixed together on your plate. Roads and driving patterns are flexible. The lanes ebb and flow as needed depending on the volume of traffic. In a place like Cambodia or Nigeria, the road space is available for whichever direction a vehicle needs it most, whatever the time of day. And people often meander along the road in their vehicles the same way they walk along a path. There are many other ways aesthetics between one place and another could be contrasted. But the important point is some basic understanding of how cultures differ within the realm of aesthetics. Soak in the local art of a place and chalk it up to informing your strategy for international business.”


David Livermore, Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The New Secret to Success
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Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The New Secret to Success Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The New Secret to Success by David Livermore
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