Russell Harlow

Adapt. Don’t Adopt. [The Culture Guy Podcast]

Russell Harlow on why even monkeys fall from trees

Can you be “too Japanese” as a foreign professional in Japan? Apparently you can. On this episode Russell Harlow tells us how his success in adjusting to his new environment in Tokyo initially had a detrimental effect on his effectiveness as a leader of a multinational organization in Japan.

Russell Harlow

Russell is one of the founders of UK-based training firm TMA World that is behind the cross-cultural assessment and e-learning tool Country Navigator which we use with many of our clients. He has more than three decades of experience in working globally and across cultures.

Now based in North London, he is one of TMA World’s lead trainers on issues of global leadership and cross-cultural intelligence. Russell lived and worked in many parts of Asia, including Japan and China and has travelled throughout Southeast Asia. Before moving into his global role at TMA World, he spent ten years working as a presentation and negotiation skills consultant for European and Asian corporate clients.

“Overadjusting” may hurt your cross-cultural success

During his time in Tokyo, one time Russell was charged with facilitating a change process among his Japanese team. He was taken aback when, after a night out with his colleagues, one of the team mates approached him and explained to him that he was behaving “too Japanese” in order to succeed with his task. That’s when Russell “learned to adapt – not to adopt.”

Among his key insights from working around the world, Russell points out one in particular: “You have to recognize that if you are not prepared to listen, you’ll miss out and you won’t understand the details of another culture.” And no matter how much cultural intelligence you develop, there will always be room for more learning. Or, as Russell puts it, using an old Japanese proverb: “Saru Mo Ki Kara Ochiro” – even monkeys fall from trees. Regardless how much of an experts you (think you) are, you’ll still make mistakes.
On this episode Russell shares another one he made while in France. It involves him and a Parisian taxi driver. Tune in!

Russell Harlow

You can connect with Russel Harlow via his LinkedIn profile. TMA World has a presence on LinkedIn as well, as does Country Navigator. If you prefer the other socials: TMA is active on Facebook and Twitter, Country Navigator has profiles on these platforms, too (FBTW).

If you want to learn more about how Country Navigator will help your organization in developing cultural competence, please visit the CN section on our website and order your CN license in The Culture Shop. To get a complimentary consultation on best ways to apply cultural learning tools, training, and coaching programs, schedule a call with us. We look forward to talking with you!

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The music on this episode is provided courtesy of Sepalot.
“Duum Diip” – Artist: Sepalot – Label: Eskapaden – Copyright control
“Rainbows – Live” – Artist: Sepalot – Label: Eskapaden – Copyright control


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