As reported in The Economist a few years back, JFK was paraphrased as saying: Europeans ask, “Why?” Americans ask, “Why not?”. I often use this quote to explain the differences of doing business on either continent. Each perspective has its benefits and drawbacks, and its helpful to understand the subtle differences in perspective when operating in either region.
“Why?” – Europe and the UK
Asking “why?” is not a negative stance; it is a cautious call for proof and can be more intellectual in its outlook. It also often more subdued in its outward enthusiasm and language, but is no less determined. Granted, there is a rich texture and variance of outlooks in different European countries. However, I generally would not walk into a meeting in the EU without solid proof points of my main proposition. I would also focus on the likely scenario in my narrative, and caveat the best case and worst cases.
“Why not?” – The States
Asking “why not?” is not blind optimism; it is a focus on experimentation and solutions. For most Europeans, this outlook can seem overly enthusiastic and optimistic. It can be, but this view also understands the risks, and knows how to get to that ‘blue sky’ world. When operating in the US or meeting with Americans, its important for frame your story in this optimistic frame of mind. This does not mean you exaggerate; you just focus on what ‘could be’. A healthy dose of enthusiasm helps as well.