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Swiss Consulting Group :: Newsletter :: The Ten Most Costly Sins
July 2003

Thomas D. Zweifel

A message from Thomas D. ZweifelThomas Zweifel, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer :
Welcome to Swiss Consulting Group’s Global Leader bulletin. If you are receiving this message, it means that you have recently been in touch with me and/or Swiss Consulting Group. I hope that this occasional newsletter will give you not only valuable advice and a better sense of what we do, but also contribute to your life-long journey as a global leader.

Over and over, we see organizations and individuals of all kinds (even governments) embark on international initiatives that are jeopardized from the start because they make basic, cross-cultural mistakes -- we call them the Ten Most Costly Sins. As you read the short article that follows, ask yourself where you and/or your organization stand in avoiding these pitfalls. How advanced is your intercultural skill-set?

And if you’d like to know more about how Swiss Consulting Group can work for you, feel free to contact me, or Agnès Pégorier (at +1(347)306-8588 or, or one of our worldwide consultants close to your location. We’ll leave you with the same question we ask our clients: what extraordinary accomplishment do you want to achieve next?

Thomas D. Zweifel
The Ten Most Costly Sins
Sin #1 You think the world plays by your rules. Too often, people dealing with other cultures are blind to their own assumptions. GE has one of the best records of thriving in other cultures, but its effort to merge with Honeywell failed because Jack Welch and his colleagues did not fully comprehend the EU’s anti-collusion laws, which have a lower threshold for monopolies than their equivalent in the US. This allowed the EU Competition Commission to veto a merger that threatened European state-owned industries.
Sin #2: You do what you always did in the past. Strategies that work in one context don’t always work in another. When 250 people in Belgium reported nausea, diarrhea and other symptoms from drinking Coca-Cola in the summer of 1999, the company responded with characteristic American-style marketing optimism of the "Don’t worry, be happy" variety. But European consumers were not happy. They felt left in the dark, and European governments simply ordered Coke off the shelves. Coke lost $2 billion in sales that summer, and its share value plunged along with its good image. The company has learned from that calamity. It recently collaborated with the French government and voluntarily recalled bottles in danger of contamination. More importantly, Coke now aspires to respect diversity and local leaders. "You can’t apply a global standard of measurement to consumers," Coke’s chairman and CEO Douglas Daft says, "because it reduces everything to the lowest common denominator."
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