How far is the Far East? Going west from Los Angeles to Beijing, China it would be more than 6,200 miles and a 13-hour flight. From Sydney, Australia, going north, it is about 5,500 miles to Beijing. From another angle, going south from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Singapore the distance is less than 200 miles. That is less than an hour flying. That could be a day trip.
The Middle Of Nowhere
After consulting Google Maps, it appears that going west from where I am sitting in Atlanta, Georgia in the USA, it would be 7,350 miles to the Far East. Google Maps drops its red pin in the middle of nowhere at a place called ‘The Far East’, which is 9 miles south of Chengguanzhen (China). By zooming in, the place actually looks familiar to farmland where I grew up in Friesland, The Netherlands – a place sometimes considered ‘north’ and culturally ‘far’ by my fellow Dutchmen.
The Flag Ignored
A few months ago, I had a coffee with a former Japanese colleague who also lives in Atlanta. She told me about an experience at our previous employer: Her department was implementing a new marketing program in Japan. People with notebooks from all over headquarters rushed to the meeting running by her, causing a Japanese flag on her desk to slightly move. She was not invited. There was no Japanese nationality at the meeting, nor were people with Japanese experience invited. The small flag stopped moving when the meeting door closed.
Drop The Pin At The Flag
I have witnessed it and I wonder if I am actually guilty too of committing cultural business crimes. At the very minimum, a ‘what-do-you-think’ approach would have been appropriate. The only explanation I have for people failing to do so is the phenomenon of experts assuming to have more expertise than actually is the case and with possible hints being too close. The Google Map pin could have dropped right at the Japanese flag. Be it temporarily.
The Far East Is So Close
It is not a requirement for success in international business to consult with people who have lived and worked in markets that are being explored. Not consulting people with the actual international experience and expertise does not necessarily result in failure. Maybe the marketing initiative in Japan worked out fine. Maybe. But reinventing the wheel takes time and imagination. Just realizing that everybody does the same thing differently can sometimes efficiently put Georgia, Friesland and the Far East in the exact same place.