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Cross-cultural management
From the May 2012 Issue
Explore the Archive

Executive Summary

Reprint: R1205H

Like it or not, English is the global language of business. Today 1.75 billion people speak English at a useful level—that’s one in four of us. Multinational companies such as Airbus, Daimler-Chrysler, SAP, Nokia, Alcatel-Lucent, and Microsoft in Beijing have mandated English as the corporate language. And any company with a global presence or global aspirations would be wise to do the same, says HBS professor Tsedal Neeley, to ensure good communication and collaboration with customers, suppliers, business partners, and other stakeholders.

But while moving toward a single language at work is necessary and inevitable, Neeley’s research shows that implementing such a policy is fraught with complications. English-only policies can create job insecurity and dissatisfaction and generate strife between native and nonnative English speakers in cross-national teams.

Companies can anticipate and plan for inevitable challenges and resistance when adopting an English-only policy. Using Japanese internet services firm Rakuten as a case example, this article outlines guidelines for proper implementation.

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Ready or not, English is now the global language of business. More and more multinational companies are mandating English as the common corporate language—Airbus, Daimler-Chrysler, Fast Retailing, Nokia, Renault, Samsung, SAP, Technicolor, and Microsoft in Beijing, to name a few—in an attempt to facilitate communication and performance across geographically diverse functions and business endeavors.

Adopting a common mode of speech isn’t just a good idea; it’s a must, even for an American company with operations overseas, for instance, or a French company focused on domestic customers. Imagine that a group of salespeople from a company’s Paris headquarters get together for a meeting. Why would you care whether they all could speak English? Now consider that the same group goes on a sales call to a company also based in Paris, not realizing that the potential customer would be bringing in employees from other locations who didn’t speak French. This happened at one company I worked with. Sitting together in Paris, employees of those two French companies couldn’t close a deal because the people in the room couldn’t communicate. It was a shocking wake-up call, and the company soon adopted an English corporate language strategy.

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The Idea

A movement is sweeping across the entertainment and advertising industries: a generational shift away from conventional media. One word is uttered by every creator and marketer looking to make a big impact: immersive.

This is far more than the latest fad. Immersive is a discipline: an approach to creating work that connects with audiences at a visceral level. A transformative approach to storytelling and design that puts experience front and center.

This coming January 6th, the most innovative creators and thinkers in the emerging experiential and immersive fields will come together in San Francisco for the first Immersive Design Summit. Producers of both physical and digital immersive projects of every scale will be in attendance to talk about the state of the immersive art, and the future of this rapidly growing industry. From the vanguard of immersive theatre to the torchbearers of virtual reality: every aspect of immersive design will be represented.

The Speakers Click here for Photo Credits for the Splash

Third Rail Project's 'Then She Fell'. Tom Pearson as the White Rabbit and Rebekah Morin as the Red Queen. Photo by Chad Heird

Delusion, by Jon Braver.

Be First in Line for Tickets and Updates

The Immersive Design Summit celebrates the best of immersive experience design and features headliners from the top immersive companies in the world, led by Colin Nightingale, a Creative Producer for Punchdrunk International and part of the team that brought the global hit Sleep No More to New York and Shanghai. Our speakers also include Tom Pearson, Co-Artistic Director of Third Rail Projects , the creators of the immersive masterpiece Then She Fell and Yelena Rachitsky, an Executive Producer for Oculus and former Creative Producer for the Future of Storytelling Festival who is pushing the boundaries of Virtual Reality. Plus, Brent Bushnell, the CEO of Two Bit Circus , which is currently building a micro-amusement park in the midst of downtown Los Angeles, and Jon Braver, the director of Los Angeles' famed immersive horror experience Delusion . New speakers are being added each day this week, so make sure to sign up for our Alert List to be first in line for announcements!

The Speakers

Creators of the Global Phenomenon 'Sleep No More'

Colin has worked across a number of roles at Punchdrunk. As Senior Producer, he managed the creation of their first international production Sleep No More (2009) in Boston and its transfer to New York City (2011). He has been a co-creator on various projects including Tunnel 228 (2009) in conjunction with the Old Vic Theatre and a one-off commission at the Vescovo medical centre with musician Jack White (2014). He has also worked on Sleep No More in Shanghai and most recently Kabeiroi , a 6 hour experience that takes place across London for two audience members at a time.

Immersing You in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Diana Williams is a Content Strategist with Lucasfilm’s famed Story Group (which is charged with keeping the Star Wars franchise a cohesive narrative universe), and is a co-founder of the ILMxLab, which is pioneering all new techniques in immersive entertainment with projects like the award winning Carne y Arena , and the groundbreaking Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire.

Welcome to Hyper-Reality

Curtis Hickman is the Chief Creative Officer and co-founder of The Void, a pioneering full-body immersive VR experience that is altering the horizon of immersive entertainment. Hickman brought his skills as a designer of illusions for world-class magicians to the creation of The Void’s “hyper-reality” experiences, including Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire.

The Team Behind the Masterpiece 'Then She Fell'

Tom Pearson, recently named among the 100 most influential people in Brooklyn culture by Brooklyn Magazine, is best known for his movement-based theater works, including the long-running immersive theater hits Then She Fell and The Grand Paradise . He is the co-founder/co-artistic director of Third Rail Projects and the director of the Global Performance Studio. Tom has received two New York Dance and Performance (BESSIE) awards, a Ford Foundation and National Museum of the American Indian IllumiNation award for his work in native theater, The Kingsbury and Cody Harris Allen writing awards, as well as commissions from Lincoln Center, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, La Mama E.T.C., and Danspace Project.

Crafting Transmedia Interactions

Sara Thacher is a Creative Lead at Walt Disney Imagineering Research Development in Glendale, California, where her particular interest is in designing for participation. Before joining WDI, Sara worked as an independent experience designer and culture engineer managing interactive, transmedia projects with a focus on storytelling, public space, and urban exploration. She was Lead Producer and Experience Designer for the alternate reality game The Jejune Institute.

Storytelling in Virtual Reality

Yelena Rachitsky is an Executive Producer at Oculus, pushing forward the efforts on creative outreach initiatives as well as sourcing and producing for the Experiences category on the Oculus platform. Prior to Oculus, she was the Creative Producer of the annual Future of StoryTelling (FoST) summit which brings together top executives, marketers, creatives, and technologists with the vision and influence to change how people communicate and tell stories in the digital age. Rachitsky is a consultant for the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier program, and helped to curate the exhibition and conversations around the future of the moving image at the festival. She also spent four years in the documentary division at Participant Media, working on films like Food Inc and Waiting for Superman.

Building a Micro-Amusement Park in Los Angeles

Brent Bushnell is an entrepreneur, engineer, and CEO/co-founder of Two Bit Circus, a Los Angeles-based experiential entertainment company. The interdisciplinary team strives to create immersive, social fun and is currently building a network of micro-amusement parks featuring free-roaming VR, robot bartenders, an interactive supper club and more. Previously, he was the on-camera inventor for the ABC TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. He was a founding member of Syyn Labs, a creative collective combining art and engineering to create high engagement for large brands and bands including Google, Disney and responsible for the viral hit Rube Goldberg music video for OK Go that garnered 50+ million views on YouTube.

The Original Interactive Horror Theatre Experience

From fighting Iron Man , chasing Indiana Jones , and eluding The Dark Knight to creating one of the world's premiere interactive theatre productions, Jon's work with top film directors in the business has helped shape his keen ability to deliver a unique vision, culminating in his wildly successful and ground-breaking interactive theatre production Delusion . For five years and running, Delusion has captivated sold out audiences worldwide, transforming them into characters inside a living breathing dark world of epic immersive storytelling. And now, with his new partners at Skybound Entertainment, Jon works to evolve the Delusion Universe into other mediums; their first collaboration being a VR adaptation of his 2014 play Delusion: Lies Within (due out early 2018). www.enterdelusion.com

Designing Sensory Journeys

Melinda Lauw is the co-creator of Whisperlodge , an immersive sensory journey of live ASMR. Created in New York City in 2016 with Andrew Hoepfner, the show has been featured in Buzzfeed, The Atlantic, TimeOut and New York Magazine, and has since expanded to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Originally from Singapore, Lauw received her BA in Fine Art and History of Art from Goldsmiths, University of London, and her MA in Art Business from Sotheby's Institute of Art in New York.

Ultra-Intimate Immersion

Lauren Ludwig is an award-winning writer and director working in theater and film. She is the director and co-founder of the Los Angeles immersive theater company Capital W. Her work with the company has received rave reviews and was named "Best Overall Immersive Work" at Hollywood Fringe 2017 (Immersive Critic's Circle Award) and won "Game Design" at IndieCade 2016. Her adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet staged in a cargo van, Hamlet-Mobile , was published in the anthology Best Plays from American Theater Festivals 2015. Lauren is the Director of the American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women and is a founder and creative guide at Wayward, a Canadian retreat for female-identifying artists.

Re-Inventing Haunts with Elaborate Storytelling

Justin Fix is the founder of Just Fix It Productions, creators of both Creep LA and the popular horror hit The Willows. Creep LA began with a mission to reinvent traditional haunt experiences by intertwining elaborate and in-depth story telling with interactive aspects and emotional interactions. In three seasons, Creep LA has included included Anna Kendrick, Vanessa Hudgens, Taylor Lautner, James Franco, and more among its guests.This year, Creep LA is partnering with Amazon Prime Video to create an all new experience inspired by the upcoming series Lore.

The Original Extreme Haunt

Josh Randall is a Live Event Producer and Creative Director based in Los Angeles. Best known as the creator of the internationally recognized immersive horror experience, BLACKOUT Haunted House, Josh has also created multi-platform experiences for the New York Times, Universal Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Focus Features, Crypt TV, the DJ Skrillex, the band Queens of the Stone Age, and the Emmy-award winning Secret Location in Toronto. Having created and produced more than 30 live experiences in NYC, Josh has also worked in the administrative offices of the New York City Opera, the Public Theater’s Summer Play Festival, Second Stage Theater, and Manhattan Theater Club. He is currently leading Events and Programming for the upcoming network of micro-amusement parks with Two Bit Circus.

Laura E. Hall is an artist, writer, puzzle-maker, and environmental narrative designer living in Portland, Oregon. Her work focuses on the intersections between arts, culture, and technology, especially in gaming. She is a co-founder of Portland's first escape the room game company, the award-winning 60 Minutes to Escape, and the author of Katamari Damacy for Boss Fight Books. She proudly serves on the board of the Portland Indie Game Squad (PIGSquad), a non-profit organization supporting game development and indie game enthusiasts in Portland.

Jarrett Lantz is Co-Creative Director of Scout Expedition Co., an immersive theater company based in Los Angeles. During four months of 2017, Scout ran “The Nest,” a small-format show described by The Verge as “...transcend[ing] its escape room and video game influences, turning a well-known format into a dramatic and emotional experience that is utterly unique.” Before co-founding Scout, Jarrett assisted with set design for several immersive productions in the Los Angeles area. By day, Jarrett works at a major themed entertainment company as an Attraction Designer, developing rides and lands for theme parks around the world.

Jeff Leinenveber is Co-Creative Director at Scout Expedition Co., an immersive theater company located in Los Angeles, California. In April 2017, Scout created “The Nest”, which mixed elements of theater, narrative video games, and escape rooms, allowing the audience to explore a dark storage room belonging to a mysterious woman. Jeff is an active member of the immersive community and has been involved in several productions over the years. By day, Jeff works in the themed entertainment industry as a Graphic Designer, bringing stories to life at theme parks around the world.

Storm Thomas is a playwright, puppeteer, award winning poet and co-founder of To Rena Love Us , an intelligently whimsical theater company. Storm performed in the award winning Off-Broadway productions of Futurity (Mandolin) and Skin of Our Teeth at Theater for a New Audience. Storm is currently working with Cesar Alvarez on The Universe is a Small Hat, an immersive spaceship musical. (2019) To Rena Love Us has been resident artist with co-founder Marisa Clementi at Dartmouth College’s Vox Festival (Merced de Papel). Storm has written Ancient Future:the musical performed at the chillaboratory, and Notes on the Past performed in The Transgender Theater Festival at The Brick Theater. Storm has an MFA in Theater from Sarah Lawrence College and is currently teaching Black Musical Theater at The University of the Arts.

Landon Zakheim is the Co-Founder Co-Director of The Overlook Film Festival, a 4-day long site-specific celebration of all things horror, with an expanded focus on live and interactive experiences. The festival features a selection of curated immersive shows as well as games specifically designed for the weekend. As a festival organizer and film programmer, he has worked at countless non-profit organizations over the last decade and currently programs for the Sundance Film Festival, LA Film Festival and Philadelphia Film Festival. He consults for the Denver Film Festival, Palm Springs Intl ShortFest, The Weinstein Co's Lexus Short Films Project., The Wrap's Short List, and First Look's TOPIC project. He was formerly lead programmer for the American Film Institute's AFI FEST, a reader for the Sundance Institute's New Frontier Story Lab, and co-created the sold-out Satanic Panic Room, a limited pop-up escape room featured at the 2016 Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX. He has escaped from rooms all over the world, and has been a life-long fan of immersive entertainment, starting well before he knew there was a word for it.

Matthew Bamberg-Johnson is a Co-Artistic Director of The Speakeasy Society, an LA based immersive entertainment company creating intimate and epic experiences in unexpected places. The Speakeasy Society, founded in 2012, has created over a dozen critically acclaimed performances for audiences of 125 to audiences of 1. In the past year, they launched "The Kansas Collection," a serialized immersive narrative experience which explores the intersection between video games and live performance. "The Kansas Collection" allows participants to determine the story they experience through their responses to live and mediatized performers, giving each guest a unique perspective through which to play their role in the evolving narrative, set to unfold over the next two years in Los Angeles and points beyond.

Be First in Line for Tickets and Updates

The Immersive Design Summit is a co-production of Adventure Design Group, Epic Immersive, and No Proscenium, three leading voices in California’s burgeoning immersive community.

The Producers
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