Chapter 10: Intercultural and International Business Communication
- Describe the nine characteristics of a global mindset or high cultural intelligence
- Understand the four competencies of working across cultures
High cultural intelligence is a predictor of strong job performance in a new culture. Recent research found professionals with high cultural intelligence to be more successful in international assignments and to work more effectively with diverse groups. They also adjust more readily to living and working in a new country and culture (Subramaniam et al., 2012). To accelerate the development of cultural intelligence, a business professional should consider establishing a global mindset and incorporating four intercultural readiness competencies. Eventually you will feel confident identifying cultural differences and adapting your behavior accordingly.
According to Rhinesmith (1995), a global mindset is a way of being, rather than a set of skills. It is an orientation of the world that allows one to see certain things that others do not. A global mindset means the ability to scan the world from a broad perspective, always looking for unexpected trends and opportunities that may constitute a threat or an opportunity to achieve personal, professional or organizational objectives (Rhinesmith,1995:24). Maznevski and Lane argue another variation. Rather than seeing situations through an interdependence lens, a global mindset is the ability to develop and interpret criteria for personal and business performance that are independent from the assumptions of a single country, culture, or context; and to implement those criteria appropriately in different countries, cultures, and contexts (Maznevski, Lane, 2004: 172).
To establish a global mindset and develop characteristics of high cultural intelligence there are nine skills you should implement:
- Respect, recognize and appreciate cultural differences
- Possess curiosity about and interest in other cultures
- Avoid inappropriate stereotypes
- Adjust conceptions of time and show patience
- Manage language differences to achieve shared meaning
- Understand cultural dimensions
- Establish trust and show empathy across cultures
- Approach cross-cultural work relationship with a learner mind-set
- Build a co-culture of cooperation and innovation
Applying these proficiencies in a cross-cultural work environment will assist professionals to effectively adapt to new cultural contexts and more aptly reach organizational goals and objectives.
Another tool to ensure successful work relationships and communication strategies is employing the Intercultural Readiness model to assess four key competencies necessary across different cultures. Drawing on research from 30,000 individuals based on their experience as intercultural management consultants, Brinkman & Weerdenburg (2014) provide insights of cross-cultural management through exploration of four competencies: Intercultural sensitivity, Intercultural communication, building commitment and managing uncertainty.
Intercultural sensitivity is the degree to which we are actively interested in other people’s cultural backgrounds, their needs and perspectives. This can be achieved thru two facets: cultural awareness and attention to signals. First, we need to see our own interpretation of norms and values as culture specific. We should also consider different cultural perspectives as equally valid. Second, we need to seek information about the thoughts and feelings of the individuals we are interacting by paying attention to their verbal and non-verbal signals.
Intercultural communication is the degree to which we actively monitor how we communicate with people from other cultures through active listening and then adapting our communicative style accordingly. Mindfulness when communicating with others includes heeding their expectations and needs. Only then are we able to adjust the way we communicate in order to fine-tune a message in line with their cultural requirements.
Building commitment is the degree to which we actively try to influence our social environment, based on a concern for relationship and integrating people and their concerns. When we build relationships, we invest in developing relationships and diverse networks of contacts. This should be done in tandem with reconciling stakeholder needs, which seeks to understand the interest of different stakeholders, and create solutions to meet these needs.
Managing uncertainty is the degree to which we see the ambiguity and complexity of culturally diverse environments as an opportunity for personal development through openness to cultural diversity and exploring new approaches. First, we need to be willing to deal with the added complexity of working within cultural diverse environments. Second, we should be motivated by diversity as a source of learning and innovation and willing to risk trying new ideas and strategies.
An international assignment affords business professionals the opportunity to experience new ways of learning, adapting and interacting through exposure to different value systems, languages and cultural environments. If you successfully apply strategies to establish a global mindset and ready yourself for working with cultures from around the world, you will broaden your functionality for working with teams not just internationally but in your native country as well. It will change the way you think and awaken you to the reality that this is a global world (Warner, 2005).
A global mindset will provide the opportunity to engage in intercultural and international business relationships more effectively by establishing trust and respect.
- Establish a global mindset about another culture of interest to you. Develop a plan to learn more: study abroad, learn a new language, friend an international student, and/or research a different culture online.
- Interview an international student. Consider asking about:
- Business practices in their culture
- Challenges adapting to our culture (food, housing, transportation)
- Experience working with students from another culture
- Observations of your culture
Brinkmann, U., Weerdenburg, O. v., & Ebooks Corporation. (2014). Intercultural readiness: Four competences for working across cultures. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Cardon, P. (2018) Business Communication: Developing Leaders for a networked world. New York, NY: McGraw Hill 2018, p.100-129
Javidan, R. Steers, M. Hitt, M.A. (2007) Putting It All Together: So What Is a Global Mindset And Why Is It Important? The Global Mindset. Oxford:Elsevier
Maznevski, M. & Lane, H. (2004). Shaping the global mindset: Designing educational experiences for effective global thinking and action. In Teaching and Experiencing Cross-CulturalManagement: Lessons from Master Teachers. Ed. Boyacigiller, N., Goodman, R.M., & Phillips, M. 171-184. New York: Routledge.
Ramalu, Subramaniam Sri, Rose, Raduan Che, Uli, Jegak, Kumar, Naresh (2012) Cultural Intelligence and Expatriate Performance in Global Assignments: The Mediating Role of Adjustment. International Journal of Business and Society, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Vol. 3, No. 1.
Rhinesmith, S.H. (1995). Open door to a global mindset. Training & Development, 49(5): 35-43.
Warner, J. (2005) Route to the top: With the demands of the job intensifying, it’s a tough slog to the top – and even hard to stay there. The Chief Executive, 205 (Jan-Feb): 20.