What is Culture?
in general is concerned with beliefs and values on the basis of which people
interpret experiences and behave, individually and in groups. Broadly and
simply put, "culture" refers to a group or community with which you share
common experiences that shape the way you understand the world.
The same person, thus, can belong to several
different cultures depending on his or her birthplace; nationality;
ethnicity; family status; gender; age; language; education; physical
condition; sexual orientation; religion; profession; place of work and its
Culture is the "lens" through which you view the world. It is central to
what you see, how you make sense of what you see, and how you express
cultures promote an
independent social orientation that values autonomy, self-expression, and
individual achievement. Eastern and Latin American cultures promote an
interdependent social orientation that values harmony, relatedness, and
success of the in-group.
also different patterns of
and thinking in different societies. Westerners tend to think more
analytically and East Asians tend to think more
Four Cultural Dimensions
Cultures – both national and organizational –
differ along many dimensions. Four of the most important are:
(get to the point versus
imply the messages)
Hierarchy (follow orders versus
engage in debate)
Consensus (dissent is accepted versus
unanimity is needed)
Individualism (individual winners
versus team effectiveness)7
Failure to identify cultural issues and take
action can lead to a culture shock. In order of priority, the most often
found symptoms of culture shock are3:
Not coping with culture shock symptoms when
they appear can lead to a very negative situation.
Yin-Yang of Communication
Culture is often at the root of
communication challenges. Exploring
historical experiences and the ways in which various cultural groups have
related to each other is key to opening channels for
cross-cultural communication. Becoming more aware of cultural
differences, as well as exploring cultural similarities, can help you
communicate with others more effectively. Next time you find yourself in a
confusing situation, ask yourself how culture may be shaping your own reactions,
and try to see the world from the other's point of view.
The Wheel of Life in Buddhism
The Tao of Leadership
Case in Point
A US-based multicultural team at DuPont gained
around US$45 million in new business by changing the way decorating
materials are developed and marketed. The changes included new colors that
team members new, from their experience within other cultures, would appeal
more to their overseas customers.6
Customer Success 360
Building Trust Across
Research indicates4 that there is a
strong correlation between components of
trust (such as
conflict management, and
differences play a key role in the creation of trust, since trust is built
in different ways, and means different things in different cultures.
For instance, in the U.S., trust is
"demonstrated performance over time". Here you can gain the trust of your
colleagues by "coming through" and delivering on time on your commitments.
In many other parts of the world, including many Arab, Asian and Latin
American countries, building relationships is a pre-requisite for
professional interactions. Building trust in these countries often involves
lengthy discussions on non-professional topics and shared meals in
restaurants. Work-related discussions start only once your counterpart has
become comfortable with you as a person.
Cultural differences in multicultural
create misunderstandings between team members before they have had a chance
to establish any credibility with each other. Thus, building trust is a
critical step in creation and development of such teams. As a manager of a
multicultural team, you need to recognize that building trust between
different people is a complex process, since each culture has its own way of
building trust and its own
interpretation of what trust is.
Respecting Differences and
Anthropologists discovered that, when faced by
interaction that we do not understand, people tend to interpret the others
involved as "abnormal", "weird" or "wrong"5.
Awareness of cultural differences and
recognizing where cultural differences are at work is the first step toward
understanding each other and establishing a positive working environment.
Use these differences to
challenge your own assumptions about the "right"
way of doing things and as a chance to learn new ways to solve problems.
Case in Point
In some cultures,
looking people in the eye is assumed to indicate honesty and
straightforwardness; in others it is seen as challenging and rude.
In USA, the cheapest, most effective way to
connect with people is to look them
into the eye.
"Most people in Arab cultures share a great deal of eye contact and may
regard too little as disrespectful. In English culture, a certain amount of
eye contact is required, but too much makes many people uncomfortable. In
South Asian and many other cultures direct eye contact is generally regarded
as aggressive and rude."8...
Harness the Power of
is a specialized term describing a workplace that includes people from
various backgrounds and cultures, and/or diverse businesses.
You can find a strategic
in an organizational and cultural context by seeking to leverage, rather
than diminish, opposite forces. "An important but widely overlooked
principle of business success is that integrating opposites, as opposed to
identifying them as inconsistencies and driving them out, unleashes power.
This is true on both a personal level (the
balanced manager is more effective than his or her peer at one end of
the control spectrum) and on
organizational level as well.
6 Attributes of
The Cultural Fit.
candidate for a top job might look great on paper, but must be
culturally compatible in order to build relationships and add true
Often, hiring managers
or boards emphasize the need to challenge old thinking and move in new
directions. But if an executive is too far out of step with an
organization, the resulting culture clash can overwhelm the benefits...
9 Signs of a Losing
no shared values;
lack of trust;
blame culture; focus on problems, not opportunities; diversity is not
celebrated; failures are not tolerated; people lose confidence in their
leaders and systems...
Inspiring Corporate Culture: 5 Elements
10 Rules of Effective
By: Linda Eve Diamond
Yin-Yang of Effective Listening
Maintain eye contact. In the US, not making eye contact has the
connotation of someone untrustworthy. But realize, too, that steady eye
contact in some cultures is considered impolite or aggressive...
"Why? What If?"
Concepts Related to
Bridging Cultural Differences...
Ten-Step Yoga Approach to
Tao of Influencing
Tao of Creativity...
Tao of Value Innovation...
General Electric (GE)...
A Female Color...