Doing business with another culture can be many things – exciting, intimidating, rewarding, challenging … and intercultural training should play a key role in helping your team to prepare to succeed globally. But what should you be asking for? And how can you evaluate the many many options out there? A recent coaching session showed the dilemma perfectly. Martin, a senior materials purchaser was about to start a relationship with an Indian supplier – and their very first question to us was “So, what should I do, and not do, when I’m in Mumbai?”.
A “does and don’ts” sort of approach can be useful if you are focussing on a single culture and in a real hurry. Starting from a position of concern and wanting to be aware of tricky situations make sense -but it brings with it a range of difficult questions. Intercultural training doesn’t stop with knowing the do’s and don’ts. Nor does it stop with just theory. But, who knows to say “I have to go to Mumbai in 2 week’s time. I’d like to learn about some theory and an intercultural model”.
The limits of a do’s and don’ts approach to intercultural training
Think for a moment of your own culture. How easy would it be for you to tell someone how they should act when they come to your country? Do all of the people in your country act the same, react the same, or think the same? A list of do’s and don’ts doesn’t explain the reasons behind cultural behaviours, so would it really help you to do business in that country?
Now don’t get me wrong. Do’s and don’ts
- can provide a sense of security,
- are easy to engage with,
- they simplify a challenging situation.
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“Understanding one’s own cultural profile is key to enhancing job performance and bottom line business results when working with other cultures.”Fons Trompenaars
How does the IAP differ from a do’s and don’t’s approach to intercultural skills building?
Dr Fons Trompenaars is the best-selling author of Riding the Waves of Culture and one of the world’s leading management thinkers. He is also the architect behind the Intercultural Awareness Profiler (IAP) – a self-assessment and diagnostic tool. The Intercultural Awareness Profile (IAP) is designed to assess the personal orientation and choices that individuals make when resolving intercultural business issues. We asked him “How does the IAP differ from a does and don’ts approach? “ , and this is what he said …
Building business relationships through understanding
The Intercultural Awareness Profiler (and the theory of the 7 dimensions of culture the IAP is based upon) offers you a robust basis to understand the dos and don’ts . Once you understand more about why people act a certain way, you can start to think about how you should act when e.g. presenting your product, managing staff, negotiating a framework agreement. The IAP provides a deeper level of understanding, meaning you don’t just recognize but also respect differences between cultures. Without that, how can you build authentic business relationships?
Interview with Dr Trompenaars