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Paper info: Looking at Business Relationships and Interaction through the Lens of Culture


Looking at Business Relationships and Interaction through the Lens of Culture


Maria Ivanova

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 27th IMP-conference in Glasgow, Scotland in 2011.



The concepts of business relationships and interaction between organizations developed by
IMP group raised attention of a wide range of scholars. Nevertheless within time some of the
perspectives put in the original work of IMP group of 1982 were blurred. Interaction at that
time was emphasized to be conducted between individuals and although the cultural influence
was not much emphasized it still existed in the notion of cultural distance. Nowadays,
although most of the research is being conducted with the help of individuals, their place in
business interaction and business relationships seems to be forgotten. Most of the research
within industrial markets is conducted on an organizational level. It also seems that less
research within this sphere is being conducted in the international settings. As a consequence,
the impact of culture is either left aside or used in an irrelevant way.
Although at first sight the concept culture can seem simple for understanding, it can be seen
on different levels and from different perspectives. Much of the literature on culture
emphasises the importance of values. Nevertheless it would be intricate to explain one’s
behavior through values, as they are to a certain extent invisible and perceptual based, which
makes them hard to grasp. In their study IMP group also draws on values when explaining
cultural distance, which can lead to misinterpretations. A new way of understanding culture
within business is needed in order to revive the usage of culture in business relationships in
industrial markets research. A cultural turn on business relationships and interaction is made
by drawing on symbolic interactionism perspective.
This paper is of conceptual character. The objective is to form an appropriate theoretical
framework for developing intercultural business relationships on an individual level. The
focus is on interpersonal interaction, which is an indispensable attribute if short-term episodes
which lead to business relationships development. The theoretical underpinning of this article
is based on the IMP group interaction approach and symbolic interactionism perspective. A
contribution to theory is to be made by reconsidering the interaction approach and looking at
it from an individual perspective and in a cultural context.
Keywords: Business relationships, interaction, individual perspective, symbolic
interactionism, culture