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In today's globalizing world, cultural intelligence is an essential tool for every person who deals with diverse groups of employees, peers, partners, customers, competitors, government, and business players. Cross-culture interaction is now a day's very obvious because of the squeezing scope of the world and allowing people and businesses to cross the national and cultural borders and expand themselves on global front.
This expansion around the world brings success only when the person/organization first overcomes the challenges to manage across cultures. This report summarizes those challenges and presents some case studies to figure out that how the modern businesses are impacted due to multicultural environments and how the management acts to overcome those challenges. All the material presented in this report refers the following sources:
These sources seem to be best suited and appropriate for the given report topic (as per Currency, Reliability, Authority, Purpose/Point-of-view Test) among the six Peter Godwin's links provided by tutor. These two provide an intellectual discussion along with supported references and case studies wherever required.
This report presents cultural diversity as an advantage because it is the potential forinnovationarising from thepresence of multiple perspectives.
"Culture"in general is concerned with beliefs and values on the basis of which people interpret experiences and behave, individually and in groups. "Managing across cultures" has become a wide topic of study and implementation because of globalisation and whole world contracting day by day.
Cultures, weather we speak of national or organizational, differ along mainly on the dimensions of Directness, Hierarchy, Consensus and Individualism.
Based on these dimensions, in this report, we will figure out the major challenges to be faced in a multicultural environment and strategies that could be used to either diminish those negatives or leverage those critical opposites and taking out an advantage out of this diversity.
This report focuses on the following major points of discussion:
- Managing and respecting fundamental differences and working together:
- Managing culture shock: Identifying symptoms before it's too late
- Cross- cultural communication challenges: Understanding, identifying and overcoming blocks to communication
- Trust building among multicultural teams: A complex process, as each culture has its own way of trusting and its own interpretation of what trust is.
- Coupling the Power of Diversity
Findings: Managing across cultures
When we say the term "CULTURE" - it encompasses several dimensions like birthplace, nationality, ethnicity, upbringing, gender, age, physical condition, family status, language, education, sexual orientation, religion, profession, place of work and its corporate culture. Thus culture is the "lens" which adjusts our focal length towards the world and helps us interpret what we see and make sense out of it and then how we express ourselves.
Cultures, weather we speak of national or organizational, differ along mainly on the dimensions of:
- Directness - Person gets to the pointor just implies the messages
- Hierarchy - Person follows ordersor engages in debate to put his opinion forward
- Consensus - disagreement is acceptedversusunanimity is needed
- Individualism - individual winnersversusteam effectiveness
Challenges to face:
One's invisible cultural roots like beliefs, values, perceptions, expectations, attitudes, and assumptions lead to the following challenges to face.
- Managing and respecting fundamental differences and working together:
Whatever we do not understand in an interaction doesn't mean that others involved are "abnormal" or "weird" or "wrong". We need to be aware of the fundamental cultural differences and recognize where these are at work. This is the leading step toward understanding each other and starting a positive working environment. We need to use these differences to challenge our own assumptions about the "correct" way of doing things and a chance to learn new ways to solve problems. The fundamental differences include:
- Different communication styles
- Different attitudes towards conflict
- Different approaches to completing tasks
- Different decision-making styles
- Different attitudes towards disclosure
- Different approaches to knowing
- Managing culture shock:
A person facing cultural issues feels isolated, anxious, worried, nervous and helpless. These ill-elements lead to his reduction in job performance. Identifying such issues on time and taking an appropriate timely action is the only way to cope with culture shock and prevent any serious negative situation.
- Cross-cultural communication:
The initial step to overcome the communication challenges is to build the hope for the possibility of dialogue; learning something new; developing friendships; and understanding different points of view. Such optimistic approach automatically overcomes fears of being judged; miscommunication and patronizing or hurting others intentionally and opens a channel for effective communication.
The major hurdles of communications that need to be identified in a cross-cultural environment are:
- Ethnocentrism: Not accepting another culture's world view; "my way is the best"
- Discrimination: Differential treatment of an individual due to minority status; actual and perceived; e.g., "we just aren't equipped to serve people like that."
- Stereotyping: Generalizing about a person while ignoring presence of individual difference; e.g., "she's like that because she's Asian - all Asians are nonverbal."
- Cultural Blindness: Differences are ignored and one proceeds as though differences did not exist; e.g., "there's no need to worry about a person's culture - if you're a sensitive teacher, you do okay."
- Cultural Imposition: Belief that everyone should conform to the majority; e.g., "we know what's best for you, if you don't like it you can go elsewhere."
- Building trust across cultural boundaries:
As per "Building Trust Across Cultural Boundaries", Ira Asherman, John W. Bing, Ed.D., and Lionel Laroche, 2003, there is a strong relationship between mechanisms of trust (like communication efficacy, rapport, and conflict management ) and productivity. Cultural differences play a vital role in the creation of trust, as trust is built in different ways, and means different things in different cultures. Where on one hand trust is gained by proving performance over time in US, in many parts of the world like Arab, Asian and Latin American countries, building relationships (by general non-professional talks, sharing meals in restaurants etc.) is a pre-requisite for professional interfaces. Trust building is complex however necessary process while creating and developing multicultural team else cultural differences can result misunderstandings even before the teams get a chance to establish any credibility with each other.
- Coupling the Power of Diversity:
Why should we look at cultural differences as a problem? Cultural heterogeneity is not always a liability, and a good management should try to convert it into an asset. This could be done by unleashing the power of integrated opposites by taking the following steps:
- Developing state-of-the-art services and products for diverse customergroups by sharing of diverse experiences and cultural visions of workers.
- Solving a problem in a creative wayby observing at "the same landscape with different eyes" andcross-pollination of ideas.
- Achievingsynergybyleveraging the power of critical opposites.
Some data figures called as cultural dimension scores derived from some reviews shown in "Cultures and Organisations: Software of the mind", Geert Hofstede, 1997 prove that people from diverse cultures have different competencies on the scale of various culture dimensions.
- Health and culture centric interventions:
This topic may not be meant a challenge directly for the managers/leaders as such. This directly impacts the people working for healthcare especially the physicians, doctors, psychologists etc. But including and using this kind of researches while making 'Health Policies' for the employees in the huge firms which own a big multicultural workforce around the corners of the world, will bring benefits for the firm and satisfaction and trust among employees. Thus this may be last to discuss, but not the least.
- DuPont (Developing a Culture for Diversity", Chris Speechley and Ruth Wheatley, 2001): A US-based multicultural team at DuPont around US$45 million in new business by changing the way decorating materials are developed and marketed. The changes included new colours that team members knew, from their know-how within other cultures, would charm more to their overseas clienteles.
- DellComputer Corporation (Michael Dell with Catherine Fredman): WhenDell Inc.moved into Asia, people wondered if Dell's Western concept would work in Asia. But as per Michael Dell, Chairman and CEO of the Dell Computer Corporation, firm didn't tailor the business strategies to fit the culture, and just did some localization wherever required. For example English-language computers won't get fit in China. Also, from a cultural perspective, customers in other countries are different. For example, that some Germans find it too forward to telephone; however, they are comfortable responding to an ad that features a fax number. They'll send in a fax, asking for more information, and will provide their name and phone number so that a Dell representative can call them. The conversation that follows is almost exactly the same as that which would have happened if the German customer had made the call himself.
In the nutshell, let's summarize the guiding principles derived from all this discussion:
- We should learn from generalities about other cultures, but shouldn't use those generalities to stereotype. We should use them rather to understand better and appreciate other multifaceted human beings.
- We shouldn't assume that ours is the only right way to communicate. We have to be curious for our assumptions about the "right way" to communicate. We should communicate trust and build understanding by talking in our client's preferred mode.
- We should listen gently keenly; and then should honour others' opinions about what is going on.
- We should suspend conclusion, and try tolook at the situation as a foreigner.
- We need to have an honest acknowledgment of the ill-treatment that has taken place on the basis of cultural difference. This is vital for effective communication. We need to use this as an opportunity to develop trust.
- We need to be aware of current power disparities for understanding each other and working together.