Keys to international negotiations

Marc Jacobs and Paul Schonenberg in converstation at Amcham's monthly luncheon on 7 May Magaly Piscarel

Marc Jacobs and Paul Schonenberg in converstation at Amcham's monthly luncheon on 7 May Magaly Piscarel

Every first Monday of the month, the American Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg organises a luncheon with speakers willing to share something that matters to them and has an impact. Author Marc Jacobs was the guest speaker on 7 May at Cercle Munster. He explained how dividing countries into seven cultural mindset groups can boost worldwide negotiations.

Following a networking aperitif, guests were asked to take their seats at the elegant tables in one of the Cercle Munster’s dining rooms. Following tradition, newcomers to the lunch presented themselves in turn before the meal was served. On the menu, a scoop of goat cheese on a thin toast and lamb served with peas and grilled mash potatoes, accompanied with white and red wine.

Amcham Chairman and CEO, Paul Schonenberg, then introduced Jacobs, who as well as being the co-author of “Negotiate like a local”, has 25 years of international management experience and is currently chairman of Molecular Plasma Group, senior partner of Hofstede Insights​, and founder of Imajine Consulting​.

Cultural differences

A Luxembourg resident for 20 years, it was in 2012 that Jacobs discovered an academic framework from Dutch social psychologist professor Geert Hofstede. Hofstede developed a big data based system based on cultural differences, Jacobs explained. “That changes the game, because now we can learn; now it’s something tangible, something concrete, that you can work with and be better as an organisation. I believe there is a lot of value in better managing.”

When Jacobs’s eventual co-author Jean-Pierre Coene, who has a background in international sales, published a book in French from a French cultural perspective, using Hofstede’s framework, Jacobs had the idea to change the concept. “What if we structure it such that it works from anywhere?” Two years later “Negotiate like a local” was published.

Jacobs explained Hofstede’s 6D model that breaks down a national culture into six dimensions with a scale from zero to one hundred, like primary colours. Then, he demonstrated how there are seven cultural mindset groups, along with the importance of the six dimensions for each group. First, come “the competitors” such as the UK, who see negotiation as a competition, win or lose.

Organisers like Germany see negotiation as a process. Then there are “the connected”, who see negotiation as a quest for a true win-win like in Denmark, and “the diplomats”, such as France, where negotiation is a “ballet diplomatique”. Russia is one of “the reciprocators” where negotiating is all about relationships, whereas China is among “the marathonians” for whom negotiation is a never-ending marathon. However, one country does not belong to any of these groups--Japan has its own group, “the craftsmen”, for whom negotiation is a search for perfection.

Jacobs will hold another presentation at House 17 on 29 May.