There are a variety of approaches and methods available for how to enhance your abilities to work within intercultural business contexts. Some methods, such as Geert Hofstede’s six dimensions of national cultures, have been around for decades. His approach has certainly played an influential role in international management practices.
Other approaches, such as that of Edward T. Hall, take an anthropological view of cultures. Hall’s books have served as the foundation on which many intercultural methodologies have been built.
Cultural Detective, founded by Dianne Hofner Saphiere, is an example of a training firm with a global presence. It provides products and services that offer a “values based approach that enhances collaboration and effectiveness in any professional function.”
A contrasting approach is proposed by Andy Molinsky in Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Across Cultures Without Losing Yourself in the Process. He is Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at Brandeis University’s International Business School and has a background in psychology.
Regardless of the approach that Molinsky or other cultural communication experts propose, in the end the objective is the same for all of us: working more effectively and harmoniously with people from different cultures. Unfortunately, that objective is rarely at the top of the list when it comes to training within international companies. There is more of a trend to offer employees language training, management training or skills-based training. While all of those can be beneficial, they fail to address the unique challenges presented when working within intercultural contexts. Why is it assumed that intercultural issues will take care of themselves without any targeted training whatsoever?
Ongoing Intercultural Communication Training Should be the Norm
Ideally, ongoing intercultural training, from a variety of different methods and models, would be the norm within international companies. A single training session once and never again is insufficient. Because something that all these methods and processes require, my own included, is adapting habitual ways of perceiving, behaving, speaking and listening. Changing those habits doesn’t happen in a day, even if you are extremely motivated to change
I am also convinced that no single method or approach provides a complete answer to the changes we all have to make continually when working across cultures. To that end, through my seminars and one-on-one training, I help my clients expand their range of speaking and listening skills so they can dance more competently and comfortably with people of different cultures.
If I could make a wish for you in 2015 and beyond, it would be that you take some intercultural training and actively practice adapting. From my perspective you have nothing to lose and much to gain both personally and professionally.