Culture can be defined different ways:
“If the mind is the hardware, culture is the software.” Geert Hofstede
“This is the way we do things around here.”
“The end product of collected wisdom, filtered and passed down through hundreds of generations as shared core beliefs, values, assumptions, notions and persistent action patterns.” Richard Lewis
2. How do you define cultural intelligence (CQ)?
A measure of a person's capacity to function effectively in a multi-cultural environment. Employers and organizations apply CQ as a way to foster tolerance and enhance cross-cultural interactions. (www.businessdictionary.com)
3. How do norms vary between cultures?Norms vary from one culture to another. For example, the way we address differences of opinion in one culture varies immensely from how another culture does. Some cultures value conflict as a way to challenge the status quo while others prefer to avoid voicing a differing opinion because they value maintaining harmony within the group.
4. What are the hidden cultural traits that affect our body language?Our body language is influenced by the culture in which we were raised. For example, looking people in the eye when speaking to them might be considered a sign of respect in certain countries, but in others it would be considered extremely rude.
5. What are the hidden traits that affect our perception?
Perception can be defined as the way we make sense of what is happening around us. It is shaped by the cultural norms that were given to us as we were growing up. For example, if a person grew up in a culture that puts strong emphasis on punctuality, there is a
high possibility that this person will judge others by how they manage time. Not meeting a deadline or showing up late to an appointment will be judged as sign that the person is unreliable, disrespectful, and not trustworthy.
6. How does culture affect us with regard to success and failure?
In a world that is strongly interconnected and where the interactions we all have require being able to decipher the cultural norms each of us brings to the workforce, the ability to lead with cultural intelligence has become one of the most important differentiators between success and failure in the workplace. For example, an employee who grew up in a culture where maintaining positive relationships with everybody is of utmost importance must be able to adapt to a culture where efficiency and results are more important than making people feel safe. Being able to float between those cultural requirements is extremely difficult and requires a deep understanding of both the cultures and oneself.
7. What is the common struggle in bridging cross-cultural gaps?
The biggest struggle comes from the fact that the neurological pathways in our brain are shaped by culture. This means that our brain is not helping us in the required adaptation that people who work across cultures need to make. We thus constantly need to manually stop the brain to make sure that we have read and deciphered the situation correctly, as the brain wants to take us galloping down the path of cultural assumptions.
8. How important is cultural intelligence in global business?
In our time when competition and opportunities are global, cultural intelligence is more important than a high IQ. IQ without CQ is useless. This being said, our education system the world over is failing us as most schools do not prepare students for a multicultural world. Unfortunately, our education remains mostly monocultural and monolingual.
9. What is the best advice to give to someone entering a high-context culture (such as Japan) from a low-context one (such as the United States)?
Speak less. Listen more. Contextual cultures are subtle, and interactions depend immensely on who is in the room, the location where the conversation is taking place, and the hidden web of relationships people have with one another. Taking the time to observe the way people interact and behave will be time well invested. Finding an in-country cultural guide, a mentor with whom one can discuss different approaches and scenarios, will be extremely useful as well.
10. What’s the difference between individuals and organizations that succeed in today’s multicultural, globalized world and those that fail?
Successful individuals and organizations value diversity within the workforce and know how to promote those differences to give the company the commercial edge needed. Many organizations have a highly diverse workforce, but they have not understood how to use the valuable amount of knowledge they have in this workforce. Their mode of operation remains adapting to one single culture instead of accepting diverse opinions, solutions and approaches to fit the diverse world each organization is trying to penetrate.
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