Cover of Culture and Management in the Americas by Alfredo Behrens
Culture and Management in the Americas
Alfredo Behrens

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2009
384 pages.
$35.00

Cloth ISBN: 9780804760140

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Latin Americans are culturally different from North Americans in ways that so far have been inaccurately portrayed in the management literature. In Culture and Management in the Americas, Alfredo Behrens argues that these differences merit a substantial overhaul of management theory and practice to make the best of the significantly untapped Latin American potential for creativity, innovation, and teamwork. This applies in organizations with North American ownership and management, whether they are based in the U.S. or Latin America.

Behrens, a management consultant and academic who has studied, taught, and practiced in South and North America and Europe, explains why the use of traditional North American research methods to capture cultural traits in the multi-cultural workforce is inappropriate. This practice produces a false picture of the cultural attributes and capabilities of Latin American managers and key staff. And this, in turn, leads to serious shortcomings in the development of appropriate motivation and leadership strategies and of appraisal and control instruments.

Rather than relying on standardized surveys for measuring cultural attributes to underpin and develop such strategies and tools, the author suggests that managers look to the arts—particularly literature and cinema—for a richer and more useful alternative. He illustrates his points by reference to literary icons such as Argentina's Martin Fierro, Brazil's Macunaima, and America's Captain Ahab. He uses a variety of case studies to demonstrate what we can learn from these iconographic characters and what we can expect of each other when we apply these lessons—whether we are leading, following, or working in self-directed teams. This readable and enjoyable book will be an invaluable, engaging, and practical tool for anyone charged with managing at any level in workforce that combines both North American and Latin American cultures.

About the author

Alfredo Behrens lectures on Cross-Cultural Management in the International Executive MBA programme of the Fundação Instituto de Administração, São Paulo, Brazil.. He has worked in or with the private and public sector in the Americas, East and Western Europe and Southern Africa. He was awarded the McNamara Fellowship by the World Bank, the Hewlett fellowship by Princeton University, The Boa Vista Bank award, and the Jean Monet Fellowship by the European University, Fiesole, Italy.

"Bravo to Behrens for successfully tackling an enormous topic and writing an interesting and provocative book . . . Behrens makes a good, readable case for understanding the cultural and historical context of the setting where one is called to lead or manage."

—Asbjorn Osland and Joyce Osland, Organization Science

"The author has created a rich tapestry of the culture of the Latin Americas, lled with insights drawn from history, art, literature, anthropology, sociology and politics. In terms of scope, it is an ambitious and admirable attempt to bring together knowledge from so many domains, and to produce an integrated understanding of the countries in the Americas. Behrens innovatively brings out the distinctive value preferences of the people of countries like Argentina, Brazil, and America. He also critically analyses the work of the cross cultural theorists which helps build perspective by comparing and contrasting them with the culture portraits put together by him in this book.... The book would be of interest to multiple audiences including scholars and practitioners. It would be especially valuable to those who need to work and negotiate with businesses/ people in Latin America, in particular Brazil."

—Asha Bhandarker, IIMB Management Review

"American managers and students of management who are considering Latin American leadership roles will find this insightful book of immense value. Alfredo Behrens builds upon current management techniques to offer strengthening, enriching tools for the professional manager. The book is also a handy partner for practitioners who seek to apply world-class skills in todays competitive environment, while preserving local cultures and sensitivity."

—Barbara Barrett, past Chairman of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, past Chairman of the Board of Thunderbird School of Global Management, and past Board Member of the Center for International Private Enterprise

"Alfredo Behren's book Culture and Management in the Americas is an extraordinary tour de force. Erudite, engaging and provocative, the book is testament to much wise thinking about some very big and important issues linking management behavior with local attributes and attitudes. Behrens draws on historical precedent and patterns but also has an acute grasp of the present. He draws on a variety of intellectual traditions and methods—including history, economics, management and psychology - to marshal his arguments carefully and intelligently. The result is a readable and enjoyable treatise. I have no doubt that it will find much resonance and will hopefully stimulate a lively and important debate in the Americas and elsewhere."

—Simon Commander, Director, Centre for New & Emerging Markets, London Business School

"This is an exceptionally important, thought-provoking and wide-ranging book, full of interesting information, ideas and argument. It is also delightfully written, with humor, gusto and humanity."

—Theodore Zeldin, former Dean of St. Anthony's College, Oxford University