February, 2015

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Increasing your cultural intelligence

To succeed in the 21st C marketplace, which is filled with diversity, it’s mandatory to increase your cultural intelligence. One of the steps you should take to increase your cultural IQ is to make some efforts and dedicate time to learn about other cultures.

However, there are some obvious challenges. There are hundreds of cultures in the world, if not thousands. As a leader, you have so many things on your plate right now that you don’t have enough time to master all of these cultures in the world.  Even if you have the time, it is too wide to cover. You don’t want to be “Jack of all trades, master of none”.
To tackle this challenge, I suggest my audience who attend our workshops on Diversity and Inclusion the following couple of tips, which you may also find helpful:

  1. Rather than attempting the impossible- studying every culture individually, first recognize the two major cultural divides in the world.
  2. And evaluate to see the main differences between these two major cultural divides.
  3. Identify the cultures that you would like to embrace in your organization or cross.
  4. Compare and contrast your native culture with these dominant cultures you intend to embrace or cross.

Let me quickly give you some pointers as you implement the aforementioned suggestions. Many cultural experts agree that the world’s cultures can be divided into two major categories:

  1. Individual based, and
  2. Communal based.

Cultures in the US, Europe, Canada, and Australia can be categorized under individual based cultures while cultures in Africa, Asia, and South America fall under communal based cultures. There are some common features among cultures that fall under the same category. However, don’t forget that there are subcultures within national cultures, and there are exceptional individuals who may not possess all of the characteristics of their endogenous cultural attributes.

We can compare and contrast these two broad cultures using three parameters suggested by the renown sociologist and cultural expert Edward T. Hall:

  • Context,
  • Time, and
  • Space.

Let me just take one of these indicators and make a comparison. Within the Ethiopian culture I grew up with, as a high context culture, most people express themselves and their ideas covertly, implicitly, and non-verbally. Most people are reserved to express themselves, and are inward. When I came to the U.S., I observed the opposite. As a low context culture, most Americans expressed themselves and their ideas overtly, explicitly, and verbally.

Let’s stop this discussion on the importance of increasing your cultural intelligence. If you’re interested me to facilitate a workshop to help your people embrace multiculturalism, and develop cultural intelligence, please check out this link to learn the objectives of the workshop: http://www.successpws.com/?page_id=1063