Sticking With Old References

Friday, November 29, 2013, by Eliane Karsaklian

The French Government has recently launched a project named “Mission Marque France”.

The Government realized that French companies are not good at selling their products abroad. France as a brand does not sell well unless it is about luxury products while other European countries such as Germany export their nationality very well along with their cars.

This is nothing new to someone like me who has been working internationally for decades. Although people love famous French brands like Dior, Cartier, Chanel working with the French is a nightmare for most of them. Their reputation is bad and appear as arrogant and unreliable people.

I have been helping French professionals work abroad for several years but no one had understood my concerns about the need of learning to work differently when they are abroad. Now that the Government’s project was announced companies in France seem to be figuring out something very new: France is not a real brand.

I thought that French companies would finally understand what I offer to them and taking the Government’s project as leverage, I created a hands-on workshop to help French sellers to introduce their products abroad. Then, a couple of months ago, a French company specialized in intercultural trainings asked me to give them exclusivity for my workshop. I agreed to create a specific workshop for their company. They agreed, but when I presented my program, they asked me to design it the same as all other programs they offer in their catalog; that is, they asked me to turn my innovative hands-on workshop in a traditional two-day training program.

Despite my efforts in trying to explain the differences and the advantages of such differences between my program and a traditional training in this specific project, I heard always the same answer: it is a great innovative idea, but please, use our template to present it.

That people fear the unknown is not new. But people who stick exclusively to their (old) references are people who can hardly understand and worse, appreciate what is new. The French are strongly reluctant to try new ideas or concepts. They stick to what is known because all that is different is suspicious. Hofstede would explain this by using his Uncertainty Avoidance Index. But when it comes to a company selling intercultural expertise, it is annoying that no other way of working is accepted. I thought this was their mission: training people to be flexible in order to adjust to foreign working environments.

Apparently, flexibility and adjustment abilities are reserved to training (theoretically) their clients, but does not to apply to their own day-to-day work.



  • fredmcmurray

    The French are not the only culture to stick with the old because the new is suspicious.