Groups of people see the world through their own set of assumptions, beliefs, values, and attitudes. Learn about your culture and how it has shaped you, and aim to understand how other cultures work so that you can be an effective global manager.
What Is Culture?
Culture may be defined as the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge of a group. As well as providing a sense of shared identity and belonging, culture helps us solve three types of problems: physical (how we feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves); philosophical (the meaning and purpose of life, and understandings about right and wrong); and relational (how we behave towards other members of our group and with other groups). Remember that our cultural solutions to these problems are learned, not innate, and are passed on through generations.
As a cultural group, our solutions to life’s fundamental questions are influenced greatly by the natural environment in which we live, and our history, religion, and language. Individually, a mixture of formal and informal influences shapes us. Look at how national, local, organizational, professional, and functional cultures all have an effect on our outlook. National influences include institutions like the family, schools, churches, peer groups, and the media. Organizational influences include value statements, policies and procedures, and reward and recognition systems.
Cultures are often said to be like icebergs. Above the surface are the characteristics that can be seen, heard, touched, smelled, and tasted, such as food, dress, art, and the use of gestures. Below the surface are the largely unconscious assumptions, attitudes, and beliefs that shape decision-making, relationships, conflict, and so on. Recognize that it is the below-the-surface aspects that cause the most problems when doing business across borders.
Your first challenge is to become aware of the reality of cultural diversity. Next, you must develop appropriate attitudes for’ working cross-culturally – including respect, openness, and a willingness to learn. Seek knowledge of other cultures through first-hand experience and/or research. Translate your knowledge into specific skills that you will be able to use, such as international negotiation techniques and leading global teams.
Barriers to Cultural Communication
There are many factors that can be a barrier to cross-cultural communication:
1. A belief that we are all the same.
2. A perception that you have nothing to learn from others.
3. An attitude that your way is best.
4. The opinion that those who are culturally different to you need to be developed.