Be Culture Savvy – With many Aha! Moments

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At ATvisor™, we like to look at things from a different angle, intentionally being different. Looking at Psychometric Tests and Personality Assessments, for instance, those carry more risks than benefits if not applied carefully. Based on methodologies and algorithms unknown to us, we code, categorize and label people rather than truly understanding the person. While psychometric tests may have their isolated use cases, they must not replace deeply engaging conversations with the individual to truly understand her/his personality.

Another area where we may not follow mainstream thinking is “intercultural training”. Why?

Well, firstly – and this is true for most training interventions – after enjoying a 2-3 days deep dive, most trainees forget most of the lessons leant by the time they hit their desks and cleared their mails. [Note: We are surely not against training in general; rather often than not however, too much time is spent on designing training programs for a high end-of-course score instead of ensuring sustainable effectiveness of each training provided.]

Secondly, and more importantly, such intercultural trainings can merely touch the tip of the iceberg. Some culture are so complex, that even living in the respective country for several years, will still not allow to fully understand the culture. Participants of an intercultural training may feel well equipped for the new cultural adventure, while they are not. In fact, there is a risk of appearing arrogant and falling even easier into behavior traps.

Thirdly, and most dangerously, intercultural trainings rely eventually on stereotyping, further supporting subconscious biases rather than eliminating them.

Fourthly, and more pragmatically, looking at a multi-national corporation operating in vastly different cultures, where would you draw the line in identifying who goes for which cultural training so to ensure everyone in the company feels understood?

Finally, an intercultural training may have little impact if the participant is not truly open to accept and appreciate the different culture. If, however, such an openness is given, a training may not be needed in the first place, since a new culture is best learnt “on the job”, applying a basic Aha! concept: Attention – hold – adjust!

Whenever confronted with a new and/or different culture, pay Attention to the little things and nuances. Instead of standing in the front row, take a back seat and observe how things are done. As we all know, from seeing things ‘live’ in action we learn so much better than from listening to theory in a training session.

Whenever you notice a new insight or experience, take a break and hold for a moment. Take the time to digest your observations and consider how to best follow, apply or reply to your new insight.

Then, adjust! your own behavior. Hereby it is important to avoid being “overly local” as the situation could turn awkward in the best case; in the worst case, it could be taken offensive, as it may look like trying to imitate or even mock the other custom. Showing respect in trying to understand the foreign behavior while remaining true to ourselves might be more important than fully adapting to the local custom and following all their rules and behaviors.

Cultural biases and stereotypes are best overcome through curiosity that comes from within us rather than through information that is filled into us. Thus, be curious. Embrace the different culture and enjoy many Aha! moments.

Choose ATvisor™ – Live & Lead wiser.


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