Saturday, October 28, 2006

Global Cultural Awareness: An Update

Global Cultural Awareness

In my work with multi-cultural teams building rapport and strong business relationships is a challenge. I’ve found it important to learn as much as possible about my global partners. Outside understanding cross-cultural indicators like collectivism vs. individualism or high and low content communication style, I look at a society and its people. On one level, this means being aware and sensitive to issues relevant to a specific global team or region. This is especially important when presenting workshops to diverse multi-cultural and multi-national groups.

I like to share several ways I’ve learned to look at global teams:

Past and Present
My academic background is as a historian. I’ve found that understanding a region and nation’s past as valuable. For example, “looking back,” tells me lots about a country, especially to sensitive issues from the past that linger. This might include the impact of the 1910-1945 Japanese Colonialism of the Korea peninsula…on Korean-Japanese business dealing and interactions.

…Or, for instance, negative perceptions triggered by a global firm’s strong, top down, authoritarian management style imposed on its East European team. The result being the host nation team feeling that although they are now rid of a former Totalitarian regime, the new business relationship—is not much different.

Popular Trends
One facet of my work is following the impact of popular trends. Having lived in the NYC metro area and LA meant I saw many America popular trends develop. This included the Yuppie (Young Urban Professional) movement of the 1980s, the health food movement, and the fitness craze.

Interestingly, Seoul Korea is seen as an East Asian hub for popular trends that then spread to Japan, China, and the region. In fact, the Korean term “hallyu” (Korean Wave) is used to describe the phenomenon. (BTW “hallyu” is similar to the pop British Wave of the 1960s in the West).

Therefore, I spend time each week trying to understand popular culture in countries-- East and West--that I interact.

A third aspect of understanding a global partner is looking at the impact of generational issues in the workplace. For example, in the U.S., Gen X and Gen Y are very different than Baby Boomers. Work ethics and workplace expectations can vary much within these groups.

Amazing, these generational issues can be seen in often in contrast. For example the new generation of Russian workers have strong work ethics and ambitions, values and traits hampered in those raised under the old Soviet model.

Interestingly, in Korea the new generation tends to be individualistic…a striking contrast to the older generation with their strong communal norms. This also translates into desire by the younger generation for a life style less work-based, with fewer hours at the office, and more opportunity to purse outside interests.

To conclude…
One challenge of Global business in aligning global teams. Recognizing cultural diversity among the teams is critical. Creating a work environment that fosters cross-cultural understanding and reduces misunderstanding is paramount. (BTW BC is dedicated to assisting Global firms in this quest--24/7/365.)

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