Presentation (Handout), 2012
2. Aim of Introduction to Cultural Awareness
3. What is Culture?
4. The value of cultural awareness
5. National Characteristics
6. Leadership Styles and Behaviours of Different Cultures
7. Examples from a real global project-and why you should follow these
8. List of Recommendations: Do’s and Don’ts
10. Where do you go from here….
11. Suggested Reading List
Many companies already operate in a number of foreign countries. More are following each year. The concept of 'global working' has become an accepted modus operandi for more and more companies both in the United Kingdom and other countries. As a result, people at all levels within their organisations have opportunities to work with people from other countries. This is not an easy task and brings with it some cultural difficulties. These need to be managed carefully and with due consideration to everyone involved.
Working with people whose values and beliefs are different from your own, can often lead to costly misunderstandings and even business failures. However, when successfully managed, differences in culture can lead to innovative business practices and faster and better learning within the organisation. People will get on better with their colleagues from other countries once they have learned more about cultural differences. They will learn that their own views are not the only ones, and that the variety of views coming from the different cultures can actually lead to better business solutions that are good for the benefit of everyone.
We are at an age where 'information space' is used increasingly for doing business. An adequate communications structure needs to be in place to make it work well. The physical location is of less concern than time zones.
It is imperative to understand the many ways in which cultural differences can influence the interactions within global working or interacting. And the culture within this environment can be visible:
Or not visible:
But consider: not every individual within any given culture will always behave exactly as the observed or perceived behaviours associated with that culture. Not everyone is the same. And some people have had exposure to working in international environments, so it is likely that they have changed their behaviour because of local influences. Be careful not to stereotype people such as 'The Italians are not good at planning and organising but are good at being creative'.
This short and practical introduction has been put together to give you some basic understanding of what culture is. It will make you more aware of the cultural differences that exist within different cultures and what You can do to make it work better for you and those you are working or going to work with.
The introduction is also meant to be a refresher for those of you who have been working in multi-cultural environments for some time. It is valuable to take a step back and be reminded of the cultural differences that exist within the new divisions.
The aim of this short introduction is to make you more aware of your own culture and those of others you are working with. It is a stepping stone on the longer road to become or be good at working and interacting with people from many countries.
This short introduction is only meant to be an appetizer. Many cultural awareness courses are available, lasting between one and two days. These go further into the finer details of cultural differences, combined with appropriate exercises to improve your understanding of the subject matter. There are also many books published now. A suggested reading list is shown at the end of this document.
Cultural differences vary from country to country. There is no right or wrong culture. They are just different. But let's now take a closer look at what culture actually is.
Here are some interpretations, taken from current publications, of what culture is:
- How we do things around here
- How people understand their world and make sense of it
- Values and beliefs people hold
Do not think of cultural differences as an obstacle or hindrance. View it as an opportunity to improve existing business practices, to make your working relationships with people from other cultures better and to aid further learning. By learning about the cultures of other people (how they do things around here), it is possible to see that your own solutions may not be the only, best or most appropriate for the task in hand.
You need to understand the 'logic' of another culture, e.g. why it is that people do things the way they do. For example, if you arrange a meeting for 10am with Spanish colleagues, do not feel offended if they are not punctual. Perhaps arrange meetings with them in such as way that there is some extra time available. It is just part of their culture. That’s all.
Find points of connection and some common ground. Look at why people do things the way they do. Understanding this means that you can come up with a solution. Values, beliefs, language and customs are all social behaviour associated with culture. They are embedded in a particular context and are connected to other deeply held values and beliefs. We need to attend to what different things mean to different people (cultures). For example, urgent means 'immediate' to UK people but means 'as soon as possible' to an Italian. This is important for you to understand and to apply this knowledge, particularly when you manage a project team with Italy taking the lead role.
The essence of culture is the shared ways groups of people understand and interpret the world. There is a need to maintain one's own culture within a multi-cultural environment such as our truly global working environment. Ask yourself the question: how do others actually think? Then build on from here. It is this understanding of how others think that is so important to improving your cultural awareness.
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