As we know the post-colonial theory is broad term of relevance for a vast range of academic disciplines in the field of social sciences and humanities, including history, literature, sociology and organizational studies. Essentially it is a theoretical framework capturing how colonialist, imperialist, neo colonialist and post-colonial practices and ideologies are influencing contemporary culture, society and the economy (Calas and Smircich, 1999, pp 649-671; Thorpe and Holt, 2008, pp 160-162). Although this approach may still find relevance in some African countries and the Middle East, it is not one that East Asian find to be quite appealing. It was popular before the 1970 when most East Asian nations were still struggling economically and needed someone/something to blame for our lack of progress.
The economic success of the East Asian nations in the past few decades (and its continued strong growth in the face of the current European and North American crisis), however, have since been seen as mostly as a result of what we have been to learn from the West and applied (with cultural emphasis and variations) to our respective societies. For example, practically all East Asian nations are now – more or less – completely open to foreign investments and expatriates from, and the West while we our leaders continue to emphasis on the need to combine the best from the East and West. The best of the east is often defined as culture of hard work, collectivism, discipline, talk less – do more, respect for elderly/authority and the rule of law. The Best from the West is seen within its progressive attitude; look to the future and less on the past; democratic institutions (Singapore called its system a Discipline Democracy; Indonesia describes our system as polite democracy), its rule of law, and its focus on scientific achievements (Mills, 2005).
What is more interesting to look at in my specific case is the history of the economic dominance of the overseas Chinese within East Asia – during the pre-world-war 2 period, after the world war 2 and after the 1970 when the East Asian economy began to take off; and after the 1990s when local east Asian players have become formidable competitors to Western multinationals and thus the various calls for the latter to understand East Asian culture better to survive (Financial Times, January 2010; the Economist, October, 2; Szulanski and Chen, 2011). This historical development provides unique opportunities and challenges to the process of knowledge creation within our kind of organizations – especially in the delicate balancing of acquiring knowledge that is methodologically rigour and practically relevant.
Mills D Quinn, June 27, 2005, Asian and American Leadership Styles: How Are They Unique?, Harvard Working knowledge. Available online: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/4869.html
Szulanski G and Chen Weiru (2009), Mc Donals’ and KFC – Recipe For Success in China, INSEAD Case Studies no. 01/2009-5580.