29 October 2013

The cultures of countries

Is success a nicer mob? Or no mob?
I've lived in the US and Croatia, 3 years in the Netherlands and now a few months in Canada.

Someone who lives in a few countries can often find similarities and differences among them, but it's not as easy to explain these differences to people who have NOT lived in the countries.

In the past, I explained how the Dutch see the US, as similar to the way Americans see Mexico, but I've seen more contrasts since then.

Last week, I linked to an analysis of the US as a kludgeocracy and mentioned that the Dutch are more inclined to suffer short term pain from a reorganizing to get long term gains. American policymakers, in contrast, just add "compensating" layers on top of old and failing policies.

As an analogy, consider how Microsoft maintains backwards compatibility with its operating systems. That habit makes it easier for customers to blend new and old systems, but it also introduces instabilities and insecurities. Apple, in contrast, abandons old systems (hardware or software) when a new system offers a big jump in performance. Apple upgrades can leave folks with old systems out in the cold, but they deliver better performance to everyone else. (Apple's "planned obsolesce" may deliver more sales, but it's not clear if more comes from people who've been abandoned or people enthusiastic for a clean break.)

If the Netherlands is an Apple country and the US is a Microsoft country, then what is Canada?

Canada is a Blackberry country that has a "World Series Perspective" on performance. Canadians only care that they beat the US because they think "the world" is composed of two countries. That's myopic in the same way that it's wrong to limit the discussion of mobile phone systems to Microsoft (marketshare 3%) and Blackberry (4%) when Apple (40%) represents the success of craft (the Netherlands) and Android (50% share) represents the messy, flexible and popular ideals of the masses.

Bottom Line: Those who have a World Series Perspective on success are fooling themselves. You need to consider the WHOLE world when you want an accurate perspective on human innovations, success and failure.

3 comments:

  1. I would tend to disagree with you David on your perspective of Canada and Canadians. As a Canadian myself, albeit from Québec and like you, having now lived in a number of countries, I've always found Canadians more in tune with and aware of happenings in the rest of the world for a number of reasons (past and present immigration policies for starters). Perhaps the perspective from western Canada is different for geographic and or other considerations...

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  2. @CC -- you're right that Quebecois are more in tune (with France), but BC, AB and ON folks seem to look only at the US. That said, Americans are worse -- they barely look at each other!

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  3. Canadians have many things in common with Americans. World tends to see them more like Australians or English, but it is actually very simillar to US. For example mortgages or education would be the perfect example of it. Also the household devt, taking mortgage into retirement or outsourcing students to Europe just because they don´t want to pay insane price for their studies, are another examples of not very shiny Canada.

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