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World Business Culture

World Business Culture


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Published by Gaurav Narula

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Published by: Gaurav Narula on Dec 19, 2008
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CILT is the National Centre for Languages in Britain. From its London base

its mission is to encourage the British to learn foreign languages. It works

closely with UK Trade and Investment, the government organization that helps

companies to do business abroad, the British Chambers of Commerce and

other state and private bodies. Two years ago, CILT received an EU grant to

research the attributes of cultural awareness. “What”, the EU asked, “are the

characteristics of successful exporters who are culturally sensitive?” The

research was carried out by Dr Michael Byram, Professor of Education at

the University of Durham, and the results were published as the INCA

(Intercultural Competence Assessment) project.

INCA offers definitions of the characteristics of intercultural sensitivity. They


1 Tolerance of ambiguity

2 Behavioural flexibility

3 Communicative awareness

4 Knowledge discovery

5 Respect for otherness

6 Empathy

How do they apply in business? INCA offers a skills profile at three levels for

each characteristic.

1 Tolerance of ambiguity

This means not getting upset when you don’t know the outcome of a situation.

In flexible cultures, as we saw in Chapter 4, ambiguity is a fact of life. Things

happen when they are meant to happen, regardless of your attempt to schedule

them. Things simply don’t happen in the time frame that you try to impose.

A good international manager is constantly aware of the possibility of

ambiguity; she does not get upset by it and learns to manage by adopting

coping strategies. The obvious approach is to develop a good relationship

with the person you’re dealing with, maintain contact with them and make

your own limits on flexibility clear. It’s important not to be judgemental about

the situation.



2 Behavioural flexibility

If you are used to working to precise schedules, deadlines and plans, it can

be frustrating to work in environments where this is either not possible or

not the norm. The important thing is to keep the vision clearly in mind (where

you want to get to) while maintaining flexibility about routes. Once again,

part of the skill is not getting upset if plans change suddenly or don’t seem

to be made far enough ahead. It’s important to recognize that there may be

different ways of reaching the same goal.

3 Communicative awareness

This is all about understanding your own communication style, and

recognizing that different nationalities may have different ways of

communicating and different expectations of your communication. This affects

both your use of language and your communication and presentation style;

we cover this in detail in Chapter 6.

4 Knowledge discovery

This is about building up knowledge of the business community you’re dealing

with through your personal experience, and what you learn from the

experience of other visitors or residents or through research. It also includes

the ability to understand your own culture as perceived by others and to modify

your understanding of both your own culture and the one you’re dealing with.

5 Respect for otherness

This is about recognizing and valuing diversity, ensuring equal consideration

in the workplace and being able to deal sensitively with issues arising from

different backgrounds or different orientation, especially in the areas of race,

religion, respect for age, gender, disability and sexual orientation. To this list

human rights is often added.

6 Empathy

This crucial skill involves being able to really listen to a member of another

business community and to see things from their position. It is partly an intuitive

skill, but also involves recognizing how other people may feel and respond

because of their own culture.




Ultimately, in a globalizing economy, the key to communication success is to

develop sensitivity to other cultures. The INCA skills suggest some of the

characteristics you – as a culturally sensitive manager – need to adopt. It is

a process that happens over time and experience. The first stage is to

understand your own culture using the cultural style profile and then apply

it to the culture you are dealing with. Developing this sensitivity will make

you a better manager, not just internationally but also with your home team.

It is to do with all-round personal development. The next five chapters will

show how to apply this sensitivity in the areas of communication, leadership,

team-working and motivation, meetings and negotiations and gift-giving and


Key learning points

•Your feelings and perceptions of other cultures are important.

•The Personal Cultural Profile will help you understand your business

cultural style.

•Use this to compare your style with the other business community

you are dealing with.

•Use the RADAR system to see where you may need to adapt to the

other culture, or them to you.

•Adaptation isn’t instant. Expect a process of cultural adaptation to

take place in dealing with another business community. Milton

Bennett’s scale shows the stages you go through.

•Cultural awareness is a process of personal development which will

benefit both your work at home and with other business communities.

The INCA project identifies the key qualities to develop.





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