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Globalisation Lessons Learned During My Masters

When I did my MSc International Management at the University of Sussex I was very proud. I was selected as one of the 33 people from 19 countries who could attend the course at SPRU which is ranked second in the world only to Harvard University in innovation studies.

Globalisation Is the Greatest Asset Or Liability Depending On How It Is Managed

I felt lucky until our first project when we almost failed. The problem was that we all had our best ways of working, communicating and we have assumed that we understood each other just because we spoke the same language. Big mistake with the best intention…assuming that common sense and best practices are enough in a globalised world can cost us a lot of money and frustration.

Nowadays companies can employ the best of the best from all over the world and they can do business in almost any countries, yet, 75% of them fail within 2 years due to lack of cultural intelligence. What is that exactly?

Diversity exists because people have different ways of solving problems depending on their cultural background such as generation, nationality, gender, educational level, profession and personality types. Even though we look at the same situation, we do not see the same thing, we just process the information based on what we know consciously or subconsciously. Basically, we assume the meaning of a word, gesture, reaction or behaviour.

Assumptions In Communications Are Like Termites In The Wood

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Termites can cause serious problems in the wooden structural components of a house, and may go undetected for a long period of time. In an average year, termites are responsible for $1 billion to $2 billion in property damage. Their presence is hard to notice, and damage usually is found before they are seen.

Sounds familiar? Everything seems to be fine in your company, relationship, family, and with your customers, and you do not notice anything special, then it starts crumbling before it collapses? Familiarity is dangerous...comfort zone turns into laziness...a stronger pattern of assumptions which would spread onto new relationships and situations...

How many times do you make assumptions about what people will like or not like, how they will react to an event or something you need to tell them or even what they are thinking, what motivates them, what their desires are? If we all worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true is really true, there would be little hope of advancement and innovation.

No matter how open we think we may be, bias affects all of us. According to research by the Perception Institute, 85% of Americans consider themselves to be without bias, when in fact, the vast majority of us carry biases that exist and operate beneath our conscious awareness. We do 98% of our thinking in our unconscious mind. And that is where we collect and store our implicit biases. (FORBES, 2016).


We need to challenge what we believe about ourselves. In addition to gender and sexuality, we also need to talk about race, religion, age, and all the forms of diversity whose unique perspectives have the potential to enrich our personal and professional lives. This is where cultural intelligence becomes important...it is not a privilege of big companies but the secret of successful people...why? Because it is the foundation of self-development!

You can only improve if you know what your weaknesses are and by weakness, I do not mean you are not good enough at something. It is about understanding that we are subconsciously influenced by our cultural background and our brain will process and fit all the new information into the existing system so it seems logical and reasonable. That is why we do not even consider the possibility of being wrong; we see only what we know. 

 

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This process involves more than asking questions, as often even the other party does not understand how they react the way they do...this is why specific training is important where we can explore deeper cultural values, beliefs and personality traits which shape our behaviour, thinking and attitude.

Companies spend 50-70% of their revenue on salary and most of them spend less than 5% on training their employees in people skills...

It is a useful set of skills to improve emotional intelligence so you can recognise and control your feelings and reactions, however that just deals with the symptoms, cultural intelligence deals with the source of the problem before it becomes an issue.

Diversity can be your most profitable asset if you know how to manage it. If you cannot, it becomes the CORPORATE DIABETES, the silent killer...you feel something is wrong, not sure what it is and by the time you find out, your company is part of the 75% that failed and cost the UK £48 billion a year.

Csaba-Toth

Written by Csaba Toth, Managing Partner of ICQ Consulting, an international people development agency which makes companies more profitable by measuring and leveraging  personal and cultural differences through a unique portfolio of assessments, training and consultancy which has already benefited some of the leading companies in the USA, Latin-America and Europe ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 organisations.

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