Why Would a Haitian-American Book Publisher Create a Collection of English Language Literary Classics?
The Well Read Collection was conceived over dinner in the summer of 2014. I was having dinner with a few of our Delince Group’s creative agency clients all of which attended top flight American secondary schools and Colleges. The business conversation quickly evolved into current events and eventually meandered in to what I would describe as cultural minutia and yes, literature became part of the conversation. This experience is I suspect very typical among those who conduct business at the expense account level. One of the clients referred to someone in the news as a "Benedict Arnold." One of my colleagues from Haiti asked, "what is a Benedict Arnold?" Having grown up in Haiti and never been exposed to the minutia of American history he had no idea that being called a Benedict Arnold was synonymous with being called a traitor.
This is when it struck me that cultural literacy was critical to business success. Literacy in a culture's literature is a critical first step to understanding that culture. Now, that aforesaid dinner experience is one that I have seen repeated all over the world. In another “post presentation” dinner in Grand Cayman we secured a contract simply for knowing the ins and outs of the Saint Etienne football (read soccer) team. Conversely a younger member of our team refused coffee when visiting the United Arab Emirates, a major faux-pas from which he was able to recover. These anecdotal observations point to opportunities secured or missed based on one criteria: how well we understood and could relate with the person sitting across from our team.
Cultural literacy is of the utmost importance in business and in the social world. I can speak from personal experience that when engaging in business and moreover business networking outside of our immediate community remains critical to our success. Hundreds of small conversations about thousands of topics beyond “what do you do” have yielded millions of dollars and countless referrals/introductions. These conversations rely on us being informed on a multitude of levels.
On to the importance of cultural literacy in social and business circles. College I have found has one central value in that an undergraduate education established a virtually ‘even’ playing field. In the United States, a liberal education core almost universally involves the following areas of study:
- Communications. The study of language in its written and spoken forms. The study of computer language.
- Mathematics. The study of mathematical concepts and procedures.
- Social Studies. The study of the past—both the heritage of the United States and the more global human story. The study of growth and development of individuals.
- Humanities. The study of the universal language of the arts.
- Natural/Health Sciences. The study of scientific process and interrelationships among the sciences.
Cultural literacy is of the utmost importance in business and in the social world. While we currently hold no effect on Mathematics nor the Natural/Health Sciences in our capacity as a publisher, we do influence the remaining balance of liberal arts study. Establishing a firm foundation and eventual mastery of communications, social studies and the humanities across cultures will yield major dividends in the social and business world. I can speak from personal experience that when engaging in business outside of our immediate communities, potential clients likely evaluate us for business engagement as follows:
Client considerations before engaging in new business
While the above breakdown is by no means scientific it is based however on bi-lateral experience. A well read business person holds a major advantage in the "Interpersonal Skills" area. The same criteria upon which we are evaluated, we have found in speaking with colleagues and through introspection to be true virtually universally. In our business life also we have also observed numerous instances of others loosing business due largely to cultural illiteracy. There is a mantra here at Édition Delince, “the meeting after the meeting is the critical meeting.” That is so say, the cocktail parties, business lunches, golf course outings and dinners are where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Often when interacting outside of our communities is where we fail to secure the confidence of the potential client.
This is where being “well read” that is to say well informed is critical to success. With regards to literature, being well read informs us of millions of cultural cues. For example, when a colleague or potential describes a new project as quixotic, a well read person will immediately source to the reference to Don Quixote. Having read Cervantes’ volumes we have a jumping off point for conversation. This dialog cements bonds and build what we call cultural trust. Now, as people of Haitian descent, non-Haitians win points by knowing the broad strokes of our cultural history. In another meeting Parisian CEO told how impressed he was with Franketinne’s nomination for a Nobel Prize in Literature. Admittedly, I was impressed and warmed to him immediately. Note that this is the same CEO that we won over with our knowledge of Saint Etienne’s football challenges.
About the Well Read Collection
Édition Delince's Well Reads Editions are a series of books culled from the most respected literary reviews of the most significant books of the second millennium. Every book in the collection is faithfully reproduced with the original text in-tact. Each book is prefaced by our "Why this book endures" editorial which places the work in historical, literary and thematic context all informing the reader of the importance of this work. We encourage you to read these books as they will keep you culturally informed and no doubt bolster your mastery of the English language.