Corporate Education Group

Building Cross-Cultural Intelligence

CEG offers Corporate Training and Consulting, as well as traditional and virtual instructor-led courses in management and leadership, project management, business analysis, business process management, agile/scrum, and lean six sigma.

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300 Brickstone Square • Suite 201 • Andover, MA 01810 USA • 1.800.288.7246 • +1.978.649.8200 • T HE PROBLEM MANY AMERICANS face when we work cross-culturally is that we assume that we won't have to think about culture. The work will naturally fall into line, we think. Then, we reconsider when things don't go as expected. For example, we discover that our American and Indian teams have completely different definitions of training and, as a result, we're six months behind schedule. Or, we develop our revenue estimates based on the assumption of a quick product adoption in Japan, only to discover that building relationships takes much longer than anticipated. The first, and best, way to succeed cross-culturally is to turn off the cultural cruise control that tries to fool us into thinking that all cultures are the same. Instead, we need to build cultural competency. What's Culture? Cultural competency begins with understanding what culture actually means. At the most superficial level, culture consists of artifacts: pictures on an organization's wall, the way a team creates an agenda, and how meetings begin and end. These are the overt manifestations of culture. They encompass behaviors, structures, systems, procedures, and rules. Underneath artifacts lies the next level of culture: norms. Norms are unwritten rules that guide behavior. When we attend a stereotypical French meeting, for example, the meeting begins with a formal introduction. Then people enjoy small talk about politics and local scandals, after which the meeting begins. For an American who is used to a quick, five-minute opener before beginning a meeting, the 20 minutes expected by a French national can be frustrating. Deeper within a culture is its core values: the shared ideas about what is important. To return to our previous example, we'll look at the overlap between French and American values. Both share a love for justice, science, liberty, equality, and the arts. Yet, French culture has values that can stymie an American, such as formal manners, obsession with logic, cautiousness, and savoir faire. Americans were bred on cowboy legends which encourage instinct, informality and impulsiveness. So what happens when French and American companies attempt to collaborate? Building Cross-Cultural Intelligence M A N AG E M E N T A N D L E A D E R S H I P

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