Cross-cultural communication

Evolve or dissolve


Globalization has changed the world… companies can outsource any activities: manufacturing to China, call centers to India, IT to Thailand, marketing to Facebook, distribution to Amazon, they have access to the same opportunities. The only remaining competitive advantage they have left is their people.

In my previous article I looked into the importance of cultural intelligence and the grim statistics of the results generated by the pre-globalization solutions.

There are problems at work and it is shocking to realize that according to research, 60-80% of workplace issues stem from strained relationships between employees. It is easy to fix technology, it is possible to optimize processes but it is very challenging to work with other people. Statistically three out of four people are significantly different to us in terms of how they think, make decisions, deal with conflicts and express emotions.

6o% to 80% of workplace issues stem from strained relationships between employees. Click To Tweet

The top three causes of workplace conflicts are personality clashes, poor leadership and clashing values. All three of them originate from the same source, the capability of recognizing, understanding and optimizing why people think and behave differently. Diversity is the greatest asset or liability depending on the level of cultural intelligence.

What can we do about it?

The general approach seems to be celebrating and tolerating differences which is most certainly a very positive step towards the right direction. The matter of the truth is that it is not going to create synergy on its own as it as useful as sending prayers and thoughts to the victims of a mass disaster.  If you want to turbocharge your engine, you cannot just celebrate and tolerate your car… you need to understand how the different parts work together so you can optimize them to create superior performance.

There are 100s of national cultures, 1000s of smaller cultural groups and millions of corporate cultures and billions of people who are unique… how is it possible to be an expert in all of them and their endless combinations? Can it be simple and scientific?!

The good news is that yes… you can measure and leverage personal and cultural differences. While it is true that every person is unique, it is also true that people are predictable and equally different.

Although it might seem confusing on the surface, there is only a number of levers beneath that. Once we understand the blueprint of why people think and behave differently, we can make the science of uncommon sense practical, logical and fun to make people compatible, productive and happy.

Misunderstanding makes for biggest distance

The biggest distance between people is misunderstanding. We interpret the other people’s behavior based on our own values, experiences and beliefs and assume their intention which ultimately triggers our reaction towards them. 95% of the time we are not even aware of this process, not to mention our own underlying drivers.

Have you ever felt that your brother or sister was annoyingly different but you hit it off immediately with somebody from the other side of the world? The reason is that we all have the same basic, psychological needs, we just prioritize them in different order and we have our best practices to meet them. I.e. everybody has a certain amount of need for certainty (or uncertainty/variety on the other side of this dimension). Some people have more, some have less. On the outside we might just see that somebody is micromanaging people, another person likes a strict morning routine, the other one likes drinking a lot. Seemingly different actions, however they all stem from the same need… the need for certainty.

Simon SinekGrowing up in the same environment or looking similar on the outside does not mean we are similar on the inside. On the surface diversity looks insanely complex, but beneath the surface there are only a limited number of levers. Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle is one of the most efficient and simple ways of explaining the importance of understanding our “why”, the core of our identity.

When somebody says ‘intercultural’, most people hear ‘international’. I hear ‘interpersonal’. The reason is that the country of origin does not influence us as much as the last century models claimed so. We all belong to several cultural groups at the same time and they all shape our identity. Culture is a group habit driven by values and needs, it is what we are used to, but it does not mean we are like that inside.

When somebody says 'intercultural', most people hear 'international'. I hear 'interpersonal'. Click To Tweet

Intercultural DISC

The award-winning Intercultural DISC model is the blueprint of why people think and behave differently and it addresses all 3 layers of identity. Not only does it consider national culture, but it covers the full spectrum of cognitive diversity.

  • Level 1 – What we do and say: this is based on the standard DISC and visible behavior.
  • Level 2 – How we behave and communicate: this is where we find the five Intercultural DISC dimensions, two for communication and three for behavior.
  • Level 3 – Why we behave the way we do: this is where we reveal the underlying values and drivers.

When our clients come to us, they are interested in individuals…their clients, colleagues or employees so they could manage and serve them the best they can. Learning about countries is useful when people move there, but it is impractical if your success depends on how well you understand the person in front of you.

Intercultural DISC introduces the topic of cultural intelligence using the language of the most popular behavioral model, DISC. It has already benefited some of the leading organizations in the USA and Europe starting from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies and national governments through a network of highly qualified licensees.

This is the foundation of leadership and personal development. Building a business is about building relationships with people. Globalization has shrunk the world, sped up communication and toughened the competition for everyone. The only strategic advantage left is people… the way we lead and serve them determines our success. That requires constant learning and applying the latest solutions otherwise somebody else will take over. We must evolve… or we are going to dissolve.

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