CfP: The Upside of Cultural Differences for the International Journal Cross Cultural Management

Current theory and research in cross-cultural management tends to emphasize the “dark side” of culture by focusing predominantly on the adverse outcomes associated with differences while de-emphasizing the positive role of cultural diversity in organizations. Scholars have argued that the overemphasis on the negative in existing research on culture in international management has hindered our understanding of the processes and conditions that help organizations leverage the benefits of diversity in a wide range of contexts, such as development of strategic capabilities, decisions on foreign direct investment, synergy creation in cross-border mergers and acquisitions, learning through cross-border knowledge-sharing, and unleashing of creative potential in diverse teams. The goal of this special issue of "Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal" about "The Upside of Cultural Differences: Towards a More Balanced Treatment of Culture in Cross-Cultural Management Research" is to showcase research that sheds light on the positive dynamics and outcomes associated with cultural differences in a wide range of contexts. We recognize that the traditional, problem-focused perspective on cultural differences does have merits; and that the idea that diversity creates opportunities rather than problems is not a new one.

"Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. 
Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster." Geert Hofstede

"Cultural differences can be viewed as either a handicap 
or a powerful seed for something new." Carlos Ghosn, President and CEO of Renault and Nissan

The results of a content analysis of 1,141 articles on culture in international business, covering a 24-year time period (1989-2012) published in the Journal of International Business Studies, revealed a 17:1 imbalance of negative over positive theoretical research assumptions when exploring the role of culture in various international business contexts (Stahl & Tung, 2014). This overwhelming emphasis on the liabilities associated with cultural differences, with the underlying assumption that differences contribute to misunderstandings, irritation, and conflict, is by no means limited to work drawing on Hofstede’s (1980) model but seems pervasive in research that uses dimensional frameworks of national culture. However, a similar content analysis of articles published in "Cross-Cultural Management: An International Journal" revealed that research that relies less on “universal” cultural dimensions tends to present a more balanced perspective on culture and cultural differences (Stahl & Tung, 2014). Together these findings suggest that cultural diversity can be both an asset and a liability in various contexts.

The idea that there are negative consequences associated with cultural differences is core to the “cultural distance” construct (Kogut & Singh, 1988; Shenkar, 2001) and its underlying assumption that cultural differences are a source of difficulties, costs, and risks, which has guided hypotheses formulation and empirical testing in much of the international business and cross-cultural management literatures. In line with this “problem-focused view” of cultural diversity (Stevens, Plaut, & Sanchez-Burks, 2008), problems across a range of international business contexts have been explained in terms of “cultural distance”, “cultural misfit”, “liability of foreignness” and related concepts. This problem-driven research has focused on topics such as foreign market entry, cross-border transfer of knowledge, international negotiations, multicultural teams, and cross-border alliances and mergers. Recognizing this imbalance, a number of scholars have drawn attention to the potentially positive role of cultural differences, advocating studying how cultural diversity, foreignness and distance can create value for global organizations.

Positive aspects of cultural differences have been studied for decades, and scholars have highlighted a number of potentially beneficial outcomes of diversity, such as increased creativity, adaptability, and problem-solving quality (e.g., Adler, 2003; Ng & Tung, 1998). However, while there are suggestions in the literature that cultural diversity can offer meaningful positive opportunities, the problem-focused view of cultural diversity is by far predominant in research on culture in international business. As such, we know much less about the positive dynamics and outcomes associated with cultural differences than we know about the problems, obstacles and conflicts caused by them. In light of the increased international business activities and transactions across nations, the growing mobility of the workforce across national boundaries, and the emerging intra-national heterogeneity in many countries, the time is ripe to consider the positive aspects associated with cross-cultural contact and the factors that could enhance the likelihood of their occurrence. Consistent with the Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS) perspective, we believe that “the rigorous, systematic, and theoretically-based examination of notably positive outcomes and the processes and dynamics that are associated with them” (e.g., Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003, p. 6) can help scholars understand more fully how such differences can enhance organizational effectiveness and performance at multiple levels. This perspective is also in line with calls to pay greater attention to the potentially positive outcomes of international business activity and to view “foreignness as an asset” (Brannen, 2004, p. 596), to explore the “upside of cultural distance” (Stahl & Tung, 2013), to challenge “the illusion of discordance” (Shenkar, 2001, p. 524), and to dispel “the myth of difference as a handicap … but rather consider it as an opportunity for arbitrage, complementarity or creative diversity” (Zaheer et al., 2012, p. 26).

Topics and Foci

We invite theoretical and empirical papers using quantitative, qualitative or mixed approaches. Papers should theorize why cultural differences, cultural diversity, and cultural distance matter; under what circumstances they are likely to be beneficial for organizations; how their effects play out; and which mechanisms are at work in the process. As aspects of distance, diversity, and foreignness occur at multiple levels, we invite submissions to the special issue investigating micro, meso, macro and cross-level phenomena. Submissions could address a wide range of issues, including but not limited to:

  • Conceptual and empirical papers which analyze how cultural synergies can be created and leveraged in areas such as cross-border alliances and M&A; knowledge transfer and learning across cultural boundaries; culturally diverse teams and organizations; corporate responsibility, sustainability, and ethics across different cultural contexts; expatriation and cultural adjustment; global leadership and leadership development; the role of bicultural or multicultural individuals; and so forth.
  • Single or multiple in-depth case studies which shed new light on the positive dynamics of culture and how individuals, groups, and organizations can leverage the benefits of cultural differences, diversity, and foreignness.
  • Work that focuses on the theoretical and empirical implications of cross-cultural research with a positive lens from comparative, intercultural, and multiple-culture perspectives.
  • Studies which address cross-cultural management education and training. Particularly relevant are papers that present novel and innovative pedagogical approaches, tools, and strategies which help instructors and students understand the potential benefits of cultural differences and how they can be realized. Such contributions could be linked to themes such as intercultural effectiveness, contextual and cultural intelligence, global mindset, etc.
  • Interview pieces with leading cross-cultural management scholars, educators, business leaders, and practitioners that provide in-depth experience and novel knowledge tied to the benefits of cultural differences and diversity.

Submission Guidelines and Deadlines

To be considered for this special issue, manuscripts need to meet the following guidelines:

  1. be submitted through the ScholarOne website,
  2. be between 6,000 and 9,000 words in length including references and appendices,
  3. follow the manuscript requirements outlined on the journal’s website.

All submissions will undergo a double-blind review process. For more information, have a look here. The submission deadline has been extended until December 31st, 2015.

Management Topic: Policy & Research
Cultural Area: General
Submitted by editor-in-chief on Oct 13, 2015