How to get the most from cross cultural and diverse teams By Gaia Grant
Have you thought about just how connected the world now is? An aerial view of the world at night from outer space shows a globe criss-crossed by international air travellers, and maps of internet use reveal vast intricate webs of connections across most countries and cultures
We are living in a reality that was inconceivable less than 50 years ago. In 1968 Marshal McLuhan imagined that the world would become a global village, and in 1991 German thought leaders Karl Otto Apel and Jurgen Habermas speculated that individuals would be communicating with each other across countries and culturesi. We have now well and truly entered this once futuristic vision. It is possible to cross countries, cultures and time zones with just the click of a button - often without even leaving home!ii It is also about, “being skilled and flexible about understanding a culture, learning increasingly more about it, and gradually shaping one’s thinking to be more sympathetic to the culture.iii CQ is a useful measure that can be used to help describe and interpret different levels of cultural sensitivity. It's easy to ignore the potential issues or find a way to work around them rather than address them. Have you ever noticed yourself using the following tactics in cross cultural situations - either overtly or unconsciously? These approaches are all too common, and they can hamper positive culturally sensitive solutions:
- Avoidance: denying any cultural differences
- Dominating: imposing cultural values
- Accommodating: giving in to others’ cultural values
- Compromising: coming up with inferior solutions that are not necessarily mutually beneficial
- Considering the context
- Learning to describe and summarise the situation as it appears
- Interpreting underlying assumptions and values and making attributions
- Assessing differences and finding common ground, and
- Selecting appropriate schema to deal with the situation
- McCluhan, M. 1968. War and peace in the global village. Bantam, New York.
Habermas, J. (1991). Moral consciousness and communicative action. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Van Dyne, L., Ang, S., & Livermore, D. 2009. Cultural intelligence: A pathway for leading in a rapidly globalizing world. In K.M. Hannum. B. McFeeters, & L. Booysen (Eds.), Leadership across differences: Cases and perspectives. Pfeiffer, San Francisco.
- Thomas, D.C. & Inkson, K.C. 2003. Cultural Intelligence: People skills for global business. Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco.
- House, R.J., Hanges, P. J., Jaivdan, M., Dorfman, P. W., & Gupta, V. 2004, Culture, leadership and organizations: the GLOBE study of 62 societies, Sage Publications Inc., Thousand Oaks.
- Osland, J.S. & Bird, A. Beyond sophisticated stereotyping: Cultural sensemaking in context. Section 4 in Puffer, S. (Ed.) 2004. International management: Insights from fiction and practice. M.E. Sharpe Inc, New York.
Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., and Minkov, M. 2010. Cultures and organizations: software of the mind. McGraw-Hill, New York.
Schneider, S.C, and Barsoux, J-L. Managing across cultures. Financial Times / Prentice Hall, Harlow UK.
The Hofstede Centre n.d., National Culture Dimensions. Retrieved from http://geert-hofstede.com/
Trompenaars, F., and Hampden-Turner, C. 1997. Riding the waves of culture. Nicholas Brealey Publishing, Boston.
Gaia Grant is the author of Who Killed Creativity?... And How Can We Get it Back? and the author of a number of books and resources, including A Patch of Paradise and The Rhythm of Life. She has a BA, Dip Ed, BD (hons), Grad Dip Change Leadership, and MSc in Creative Thinking (International Centre for Studies in Creativity State University of NY). She is now completing an MPhil, leading into a PhD focusing on research into the role of culture change and transformation in innovation at Sydney University, where she is also a guest lecturer on innovation across cultures for the Business School.