Nanci’s Blog

Differences vs Similarities 

July 11th, 2006

For the past six months, Arcelor and Mittal Steel have been in the news. Mittal Steel, an Indian steel company made a hostile bid for Arcelor, a French steel company. During negotiations, things got ugly with Arcelor’s management calling Mittal [an Indian company run by Indian monkeys] and inferred that Mittal Steel made money through unscrupulous means. Arcelor then turned to a Russian steel company and planned to merge with them as they wanted to merge with a ‘truly European’ company.
After the announcement of the merger, Arcelor’s shareholders decided that they were not getting a good return on investment with the Russian deal and voted to go with Mittal instead. At the end of the day, Arcelor got both a lucrative deal and some of the prime management posts (CEO).
Here’s the thing, how would this entire deal and negotiations have been different if Arcelor initially looked for similarities with Mittal? Intrinsically, they are both steel companies which should have given them common ground to work with. But rather than focusing on the business benefits of merging the two companies, Arcelor’s management decided to focus almost entirely on the cultural differences–Indian versus French. The fact that Mittal is London-based, is one of the top five wealthiest people on the planet and is an erudite businessman, did not enter into the discussions.
How often do we behave in this manner? How would our lives and the state of this planet be different if we saw others first as people, with the same needs, desires and fears that we have, before labeling them through gender, nationality, size, height, hair color, eye color, dress etc? There are many books and courses on cultural differences and diversity. I think we should spend more time focusing on similarities. This will enable us to show less judgment and more understanding and compassion to others when we realize that in essence, they are merely extensions of ourselves.
Is there someone at work or a department that you view as different from you or your department? How would your relationship, method of working and results be different if you focused on what you had in common?

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