The Cross Cultural Challenge

Just recalling my recent trip to Guatemala. We were attempting to help bring fresh water to the Qechi Mayans of the Ulpan Valley. This desire was complicated by an interesting fact. According to research by international research groups, Guatemala is one of the most “collectivist” countries in the world. In other words, the people and culture of Guatemala assumes that all resources must be used for the good of the society as a whole. You don’t own resources like water. Therefore, the representive of the Mayans believed that the fresh water in the mountains above the Ulpan could not be controlled by one person. However, the German landowner, was educated in the U.S. The United States and Germany are two of the most “individuated” countries in the world. In other words, people must make it on their own and a person deserves success based on their work ethic and position.
So, the landowner began the conversation by stating, “Water is a commodity and I own it.”

So we began the conversation. Two big issues…

1) How do you manage the power distance index between the landowner and Mayans? The Mayans have no power or resources.
2) Think about interests. What is the path to “Going Below the Line” with the landowner.

I am interested in hearing your responses.


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