intercultures | News

We Are (Re-)Creating the Culture of Our Economy

 

Note: The following article was included in our Jan. 2017 intercultures e-newsletter. Email the Editor to receive our next quarterly edition in your inbox well in advance of website postings. We offer fresh, intercultural information and insights for working better globally.

Caption: A Metaphor for Our Human Economy . Photo credit: Malii Brown.

Caption: A Metaphor for Our Human Economy . Photo credit: Malii Brown.

The quality of our collaborative efforts in global business necessarily influences progress in the world economy that brings us together in the first place. We are individual actors whose collective energies create the layered worlds of culture[i] in which we live. Our economy is intimate to us; a product of how we live and value ourselves and others; a magnifier of our individual actions and non-actions[ii]. Together, we are an integrated ecosystem, creating a dominant, global culture of economy that lives and thrives just as we do. The world economy does not operate independently of how we collectively include or exclude others.

See related July 2015 intercultures e-newsletter article, Imagination Is the New Black, on the so-called post-capitalist, global economy.

In Jan. 2017, the 28th African Union Summit commenced in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (22-31 Jan.) just as the 2017 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting culminated in Davos-Kloster, Switzerland (17-20 Jan.). Recognized business and political leaders with an intention to shape how we think of economic exchange attend such events, though the predominant number of us who do not get a golden ticket to attend are arguably the most significant thinkers and practitioners on the world economic stage. People, after all, are at the heart of any culture. It makes sense then, that how global society exchanges with “others” within our human systems determines the quality in which we all live.

“The future of the world must be defined by what we share, not our differences.” 

– Rawan Al-Butairi, World Economic Forum Global Shaper[iii]

With the intention to offer a productive critique of, and discussion about, of the status quo, global market economy to which we collectively contribute, intercultures offers three perspectives—and possibilities—that may influence the way you make the connection between, a.) how we demonstrate our value of others (social currency), and b.) the value they represent in the world economy (financial currency). Accompanying discussion questions are included to prompt conversation, and we invite you to continue the conversation virtually among our global network by sharing your comments for publication in a future e-newsletter edition. The following views are lent by nonprofit, nongovernmental and academic sectors, respectively, and are transferrable to our business context.

  1. Contrary to popular public portrayal of Africa as inferior and dependent in more ways that one, six of the top ten 2017 fastest growing economies are on the continent[iv]. Only four years into Agenda 2063, we can already continue down the list of fastest growing economies to find that 12 of the top 25 are also African. “Sharity”[v], according to Mallace Bart-Williams, a Finance and Economics-trained writer/ filmmaker/ designer, is a sustainable alternative to a charitable approach to Africa, and a resolution to economic disparity that requires a change in your perspective of others. In her presentation at the TEDx Berlin Salon, “Chances. Challenges. Changes.”, Bart-Williams makes a profound critique from her bi-cultural perspective about how thinking about others with prejudice and paternalism informs the culture of the world market economy. She also shows sharity in action, a practice “based on mutual respect and sharing; a blueprint that can be replicated anywhere, and under any circumstances.” Question for discussion: Imagine how a model of sharity would profit your business relationships. What would have to change—and why?
  2. Developed by a nongovernmental organization that has consultative status with the United Nations, the statement, “Take No Pride in Gold and Silver: A relationship lens on financing for development”, also offers insight into how intercultural business relationships inform—and can productively influence—world economics. Issued in July 2015 from the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia office of the Baha’i International Community, it reads, “Under current conditions, the majority of the world’s people live in societies in which relationships of dominance prevail—dominance of one nation, one race…one social class…Development can no longer be viewed as something that one group of people does for the benefit of another. The equitable and effective allocation of resources enables even the materially prosperous to benefit the as-yet-unrealized contributions of the materially poor. The relationship can no longer be one of donor-recipient…but must mature to one of assisting all to be protagonists of [economic] development.” In short, relationships characterized by mutuality build mutual benefit. Question for discussion: How do relationships of dominance within your workplace(s) influence the value of your own and others’ social capital—and the value of work produced?
  3. This time from the academic sector, a third illustration of how perspective shapes reality is inspired by Harvard’s Center for European Studies’ Nov. 2016 workshop, “Social Inclusion and Poverty Eradication”, that was attended by an international cadre of specialists from Greece, Italy, and South Africa, among other countries. Given that stigma against the poor actually promotes poverty, workshop participants explored how inclusion—socially, politically and economically— may reduce poverty. The perception of welfare mothers in the U.S. is mentioned as an example: “If you were to Google images and look for welfare mothers in Israel, you’d see a beautiful, blonde, healthy mother—that’s a celebration of the Zionist ideal of building the nation through a high fertility rate. But in [U.S.] America, you see the oppressed African-American mothers at the bottom of the social latter”. (This false perception of Black U.S. American women is debunked by actual statistics—and in the Feb. 2015 Huffington Post article, Who Gets Food Stamps? White People, Mostly). Lack in our own perceptions limits others and ourselves. Question for discussion: How will you investigate the ways in which socially marginalized people are excluded in the dominant culture of the spaces you work—and measure the potential gained from reversing the trend?

How you do what you do at work with others is a part of a local and global, living whole. This is a universal truth that has been popularly accepted as part of the phenomenon of globalization, but which has roots that are much deeper to our human history. As reflective practitioners, we possess the power to influence the world beyond our daily, technical tasks, and as a part of a living culture of economy which many have not yet recognized.

[i] Culture is the set of learned and shared values, beliefs, assumptions and behaviors that characterize a particular group.

[ii] For more on the concept of our whole, living ecosystem, see the book, Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations and Society by Betty Sue Flowers, Joseph Jaworski and Otto Scharmer with Peter Senge.

[iii] Quoted from Rawan Al-Butairi’s article, What Does Leadership Really Mean? Two Things, one of the short-listed entries in the 2016 Global Shaper essay competition on the theme of responsive and responsible leadership. In the article, Ms. Al-Butairi states that leadership means two things: “First, globalization, like capitalism, must be effectively managed to be more inclusive…Second, responsible leaders must have deep social capital, particularly ‘bridging social capital’.”

[iv] Source: Info compiled from International Monetary Fund (IMF) data, Oct. 2016.

[v] To the best of our Editor’s knowledge, “sharity” is an economic concept coined by Mallace Bart-Williams. The reference made in this article is in no way related to the nonprofit organization by the same name—and its ironic tagline, “Be clothes minded”—that raises funds from the purchase of celebritys’ clothing items for the benefit of charitable organizations.

Jungle Story: Building Business in “Costas Más Ricas”

 

Note: The following article was included in our Jan. 2017 intercultures e-newsletter. Email the Editor to receive our next quarterly edition in your inbox well in advance of website postings. We offer fresh, intercultural information and insights for working better globally.

Caption: Jungle view shot near Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Credit: Malii Brown.

Caption: Jungle view shot near Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Credit: Malii Brown.

Mau (Mauricio) Otarola is originally from San José, Costa Rica, and now lives among locals and travelers 220 km east of the city in Puerto Viejo, along the Caribbean Sea. He is the co-owner of a vacation rentals and property management business that maintains and rents houses owned predominately by individual, foreign investors to visiting groups and families from Argentina and other South American countries, Germany, Italy and the U.S. When asked to make the distinction between what’s global and what’s local, Mau says, “For me, when you do something locally, you do it with more love.” This month, Mau sat down with intercultures to share how the story of one Tico[i] working out of the jungle of Costa Rica intersects with the stories of others around the world working globally.

What may distinguish Mau from the majority of professionals working internationally is that he finds challenge in his work without feeling the external pressures he did living in the capitol. Having grown up in a faster, achievement-oriented city, Mau appreciates the slower pace of life on the coast while managing the circumstances that come with serving the high expectations of a rotating public from abroad. “Everyday I have new challenges—even though I’m not prepared for that,” he says with a laugh. Usually, it’ because it’s peoples’ first time in the country; “basic stuff” that is not always understood “in the Costa Rican way”. Mau seems to accept the cultural differences that sometimes challenge, adding that his clients “are super nice, and [that] all of them also think differently…What I’ve learned so far about difficult situations where people are not calm [is that] you need to bring the calm”. An easy smile spreads across his face again as he speaks.

intercultures recognizes progressive interest within Latin America in developing the skills and opportunities to work better globally. As an early adapter to the opportunity for local work with global actors, English language skill was Mau Otarola’s entry point. “This experience that I have had [in building Habitat] is because I’m speaking English.” For many others—including friends back in the capital city—English is not common and, coupled with English language-speaking travelers’ lack of Spanish—creates a barrier to communication. Others are attending training institutions that are emerging across the country. “In San José, I think six years ago it started,” says Mau. Since then, there has been a shift from an older order of barter economy, fishing and farming to bilingual young people seeking competitive-paying jobs at customer service call centers established in “Costas Más Ricas” by such companies as Hewlett-Packard and Intel. “Among the Central American countries,” says Mau, “I think Costa Rica was chosen as a first. I haven’t heard of this [international business development] in other Central American countries…The field is getting prepared for future generations. And it’s because…companies are coming to the country in order to offer these kinds of jobs.” Their workforce is ripening.

One critique that Mau hears from foreigners that have entered the country with new ideas is that Costa Ricans don’t want to work. Clearly, cultural interpretation is at play here. Some will supplement language and technical training with intercultural interventions in order to create sufficiently effective and sustained business with mutual benefit. Yet ironically, a highly active market for land and property as well as differing cultural expectations about service quality will influence the pace of life that clients come to Costa Rica to enjoy.

But for the time being, it’s green, warm and endlessly damp in the tropical rain forest where Mau and his neighbors live among agoutis (bush rats), chickens, iguanas, monkeys, snakes and likely a million other living creatures. Pipa (coconut) water is being sold straight from its shell on the side of the road. The traditional dish of rice and beans is being served at every restaurant worth it’s salt. It’s a beautiful day for business in Costa Rica, and business is good for this Tico.

[i] “Tico” is a term used by Costa Ricans and other Spanish-speakers to refer to natives of Costa Rica.

Year of the Rooster: #CNY2017!

 

Note: The following article was included in our Jan. 2017 intercultures e-newsletter. Email the Editor to receive our next quarterly edition in your inbox well in advance of website postings. We offer fresh, intercultural information and insights for working better globally.

Hong Kong, People's Republic of China, Asia. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Caption: Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China. Credit: Getty Images.

As with every Chinese New Year (CNY), business slows or stops while over a billion people around the globe clean house, travel to see family, give gifts and celebrate. Also called the Lunar New Year and celebrated as the Spring Festival, this cultural tradition dating back 4,000 years has in recent decades become recognized for its importance to the global business world. Know the basics.

While CNY is Jan. 28, some businesses in China may remain closed until late February or early March. CNY is the longest public holiday in the country with most Chinese off work until 15 Feb. Beyond China, national observances in Hong Kong and Taiwan are shorter in duration.

In addition to the the Rooster this year, common CNY symbols include red posters with poetic verses (and the color red in general); fish (symbolizing prosperity); firecrackers (symbolizing good luck); and festival lanterns (symbolizing the pursuit of what’s bright and beautiful). For CNY 2017, it is said that brown, gold and yellow are lucky colors; the numbers 5, 7 and 8 are lucky numbers; and that south and southeast are lucky directions.

Common CNY greetings include, “Sunshine around you,” “New Year’s progress,” “Happiness and prosperity” (when receiving gifts) and “Happy New Year”! Many people send and receive CNY greetings via text (SMS). The WeChat platform, for instance, is quite popular in China.

intercultures thanks our China customers and consultants for their partnership. We wish our global network sunshine around you this Chinese New Year!

Information sourced from China Highlights and Time and Date.

What Do We Tell Our Children?

 

Note: The following article was included in our Nov. 2016 intercultures e-newsletter. Email the Editor to receive our next bi-monthly edition in your inbox well in advance of website postings. We offer fresh, intercultural information and insights for working better globally.

Photo credit: Sudipta Mallick, Sleeping Child.

Photo credit: Sudipta Mallick, Sleeping Child.

Some say that the recent events of the Presidential election in the U.S. and “Brexit” in the U.K. mark a shift in the world as we have known it. To whatever extent these national and regional events influence us internationally, there is perhaps a more immediate question that requires our response. It’s a question that recurs in relation to meaningful, socio-political events throughout modern world history. At sunrise, and over our bowls of rice or yoghurt or bread, this question greets us the morning after such events. The curious eyes of the youngest amongst us want to know what it all means. What do we tell our children? 

In the dozens of intercultures’ e-communications shared, we trust that the scope of our competence has been well understood. We are a provider of competence-based intercultural interventions; together with you, we develop solutions to work better in global complexity. Often, we have reported the local—and even “glocal”—application of the quality of competence we promote. That said, we have approached the question posed by this article title from the perspective of what we know we know well—and welcome parents and professionals alike to share their thoughts, as well.

The question behind the question is how to explain realities that are often contrary to the worlds that we create for our children. It speaks to our own lack of knowing in a world we may sometimes feel we know too much about. Why not learn what will fuel the kind of world that you want to help make possible?

Think of the classic diagram of one circle within another, within another. Three circles, total. The innermost circle represents What We Know; the circle around that represents What We Know We Don’t Know; the largest circle around them both represents What We Don’t Know We Don’t Know. It’s at this widest scope that we risk failing at what is important to us: whatever our “bottom line” may be.

Arguably, equally as important as What We Know is learning What We Don’t Know We Don’t Know and need to learn more about. If you have found yourself positively engaged with the content of intercultures’ e-newsletters, or the experience of our training and coaching, you are uniquely a part of the endeavor to expand the possibilities of knowing and becoming. Expanding our understanding of that to which we are blindsighted opens opportunity to close the gap, engage with others in doing so, and innovate something that you couldn’t have seen without having first come together. To what extent is this the kind of world that you want to make possible? 

Our response to the title of this article is that we tell our children—literally or figuratively—how we’re working at our jobs. Tell them what you’re learning about working better globally. Teach them how to do it locally: In kindergarten; at high school; with friends and neighbors, known and not yet known. Explain the culture-based values, beliefs and behaviors that you are passing on to them, as you have learned—and are actively learning about—them. Teach our children how to interpret unfamiliar and familiar behaviors from multiple perspectives; observe to learn; negotiate towards mutual benefit with progressive knowledge of the people in their classrooms, after school clubs and part-time jobs. Help them practice using their voice to ask from a place of curiosity; affirm shared values; and advocate towards increased inclusion for themselves and all others. Ask them what it means to be a part of a team; to be a strong contributor; to find success. Challenge them to think critically as you do each day at work. These are the skills that they will need to do good—and do well—when it comes time for our young people to enter the workforce, pick up the “torch” and affect profitable change in more ways than one.

However you reconcile what to tell our children after the explosion of excitement, after fear felt in the aftershock of significant world events, we humbly suggest that you empower them to be curious about the world, others and themselves. Again and again—in study after study, and in day-to-day practice—we’re learning that the energy invested in knowing more about what we don’t know opens worlds of possibility—for both us and generations to come.

Introduction to Raina Müller-Bornemann & “Thank You” To All

 

Note: The following article was included in our Nov. 2016 intercultures e-newsletter. Email the Editor to receive our next bi-monthly edition in your inbox well in advance of website postings. We offer fresh, intercultural information and insights for working better globally.

Raina Müller-Bornemann of intercultures' Global Head Office, Berlin, Germany.

Raina Müller-Bornemann of intercultures’ Global Head Office, Berlin, Germany.

Raina Müller-Bornemann enjoys a good thriller, particularly those by the famous South African writer, Deon Meyer. His books “tell a lot about the relations between different ethnic groups in South Africa, and changes in [the country’s] society,” she says. Reading these stories reminds Raina fondly of a time in her life when she lived for five years in Windhoek, Namibia with her family, and travelled extensively through the southern region of the continent. The youngest of her two “third culture kids”[i], who was born in Namibia, explains that her mama does “something with people in other countries” for work.

Her daughter would be correct. In fact, Raina has been working one of intercultures’ key Customer Management roles since mid-2016 as a team member at our Global Head Office. If you have not already encountered Raina over the phone, via your inbox or at our office, know that she joins a small and mighty back office team that supports customer relations. In her role, Raina develops and organizes custom-made training and coaching for customers worldwide; develops trainers; and networks amongst our global consultant pool. She’s also learning the meaning of Virtual Closeness[ii], which she says, “is becoming one of the main topics in intercultures’ trainings, and is truly interesting.”

Raina joins our team with a Masters of Arts degree in International Business Studies with a focus on Southeast Asia; some study of Tourism; and a certification as an intercultural trainer. She says, “what shaped me most was that I worked in different cultural backgrounds in Germany and Namibia, and also in different professional backgrounds”. More specifically, Raina’s professional background includes private sector work in Sales and Marketing; Tourism; and an overseas assignment with the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. “Through this,” says Raina, “I experienced different business cultures, and learned different ways of how people work together.”

In her time at our headquarters, Raina has observed that, “what I haven’t experienced to this extent [professionally] is the appreciative way that intercultures works with customers, consultants and within the team.” We like to believe that what she’s experiencing reflects intercultures’ stated mission, vision, values, USP and understanding of quality.

Unique for our Berlin office [iii], Raina is a hire who identifies as “entirely German as both [her] parents are German, and most of [her] life she has lived in Germany”. She may represent an outlier beyond the German archetype. At the encouragement of her parents, Raina studied in Scotland at age 12; France at 14; and Canada at 16. Raina looks like a Berliner to those who assume that those who belong look alike, though she’s experienced being a “foreign object” both outside of, and within, her homeland. She became particularly aware—and at times critical—of her German cultural identity when living and integrating in a Javanese-speaking, predominately Muslim, area of Indonesia; when repatriating to Germany and encountering the cultural tendency to stick to the rules; when speaking with Germans less exposed to cultural difference—both within and outside the nation—who did not necessarily understand why someone would want to leave the country and live in Africa. The variety of Raina’s experiences reflect intercultures’ deep conviction that our customers benefit from the fact that our Global Head Office staff and consultant pool also live the processes that we offer externally.

In addition to welcoming Raina Müller-Bornemann, intercultures would like to take this opportunity to thank the people who make our global operation possible. To our team in Berlin; our key stakeholders in China, Germany, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and the U.S.; and to the talented consultants and coaches who identify professionally with intercultures, we thank you with deep gratitude, respect and anticipation for 2017.

Partial map of African continent. (Source: Google Maps.)

Partial map of African continent. (Source: Google Maps.)

Click to enlarge the image to the left. Namibia is located in the southernmost region of the continent of Africa, which generally includes the countries Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabe.

Led by President Hage Geingob, Namibia has a population of 2.4 million; an area of 824,292 square kilometers (318,261 square miles); a current life expectancy of 62 years; and is a predominately Christian country. Languages spoken include English (official), Afrikaans, German, Oshivambo, Herero and Nama. (Source: BBC News Country Profile.)

[i] A third culture kid (TCK) is a young person or individual raised in a culture other than their parents’ for a significant part of their early development years, and exposed to a great variety of cultural influences.

[ii] Virtual Closenes is a term coined by Line Jehle, Dr. Marcus Hildebrandt and intercultures’ own, Stefan Mesiter, in their book, Closeness at a Distance: Leading Virtual Groups to High Performance. In the book, Virtual Closeness is said to describe, “the perceived closeness between two or more group members and their perceived closeness to the context and space wherein they interact after a period of little or no face-to-face contact.”

[iii] Since established in 2001, intercultures has intentionally maintained a back office staffed by a minimum of 70% team members of bi-cultural or non-German origin.

Diversity Makes You Smarter— And More Attractive, Too!

Note: The following article was included in our Nov. 2016 intercultures e-newsletter. Email the Editor to receive our next bi-monthly edition in your inbox well in advance of website postings. We offer fresh, intercultural information and insights for working better globally.

Photo credit: Getty Images.

Photo credit: Getty Images.

“Consider the following scenario: You are writing up a section of a paper for presentation at an upcoming conference. You are anticipating some disagreement and potential difficulty communicating because your collaborator is [U.S.] American and you are Chinese. Because of one social distinction, you may focus on other differences between yourself and that person, such as her or his culture, upbringing and experiences—differences that you would not expect from another Chinese collaborator. How do you prepare for the meeting?”

The power of anticipation is one of the of ways that diversity makes you smarter, according to an Oct. 2014 Scientific American article that was circulating social media networks in late 2016. The subtext reads, “Being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working”. As a footnote to the scenario above, the article suggests that you would likely work harder to explain your rationale and anticipate alternative options when planning to meet with a collaborator from a different country. intercultures agrees.

Why? Because “business as usual” is context-specific. If you’re striving to achieve success the same way in different places over time, you’re not doing it right. So-called “better practices”, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and even what it means to carry oneself professionally—differs from country to culture to organization. It takes an “intercultural mind” to predict, prepare and present ideas that will be attractive enough to persuade, influence and attract—as in the example above—someone who generally thinks and works differently than you. intercultures calls it global skill.

This very principal—the power of anticipation—in one way or another, is a key solution that we’ve been sharing in our interventions for years. intercultures leads with the rationale that making use of multicultural diversity drives profit in terms of people engagement and inevitably, the financial bottom line. Once this fact is established, we begin the work of training—because mining the diamond of diversity doesn’t work unless you do.

Cultivating diversity works from the inside out. In an Aug. 2012 study by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, a positive correlation was found between, a.) companies that placed women on their corporate management boards and, b.) lower debt to equity and average growth. In this study, the Institute “examined 2,360 companies globally from [the years] 2005 and 2011, looking for a relationship between gender diversity on…boards and financial performance.” Some companies who experienced these results had only one woman on their board.

Another interesting finding related to the way that diversity can attract positive results involves the social construction of race in the U.S. In a 2004 study led by Stanford Graduate School of Education and the University of California (Los Angeles), 350+ university students first discussed a significant social issue, and then read opposing opinions on the issues. (The opinions were written by the researchers, and not the participating students.) The result? “When a black person presented a dissenting perspective to a group of whites, the perspective…led to broader thinking and consideration of alternatives than when a white person introduced that same dissenting perspective”. The lesson? Hearing disagreement from someone who looks different from us—whoever we are—excites more thought than when we hear it from someone who looks like the listening audience.

Diversity makes easy sense in more ways than one. In order to achieve success in different contexts, it is necessary for individuals to anticipate in order to increase their personal power; organizations to practice diversity from the inside out; and leaders to influence by sometimes stepping aside to allow another voice to deliver the most persuasive message. Like anything else, once in the rhythm of it, good becomes better and better becomes best.

All quotes sourced from: Phillips, Katherine W. “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter.” Scientific American, 1 Oct. 2014.

Boost Your Training Evaluation Process

 

Note: The following article was included in our Sept. 2016 intercultures e-newsletter. Email the Editor to receive our next bi-monthly edition in your inbox well in advance of website postings. We offer fresh, intercultural information and insights for working better globally.

"Worse case scenario: Your participant is simply having a bad day!"

“Worse case scenario: Your participant is simply having a bad day!”

In a post-training debrief with an intercultures customer and consultants this financial quarter, the group discussed how to best interpret basic evaluation data from recent training. One intercultures consultant shared her personal observation that professionals of her Millennial generation often expect quick wins and swift progress up the professional ladder. The same training consultant said she experiences that some Millennial participants find themselves disappointed when they encounter training that is process-rich and product-poor. She, too, feels inclined to push her career forward faster, and is sometimes impatient with the time it takes to grow competence and clientele. As a trainer, this consultant said she’s also witness to the fact that (adult) learning is a process—about which countless theories and models have been designed. Still, she steps aside for participants who feel the need to hurry up and wait for the learning.

Offering an evaluation to training participants can feel like a risky proposition for a professional trainer when expectations are mismatched and are not met. There’s a service-oriented desire to please the customer by delivering particularly positive evaluations at the end of a training day, and be invited to return for repeat business. Maybe you have firsthand experience collecting participants’ evaluations only to discover critical metrics and or narrative. Receiving “middle of the line” results on a numerical scale or comments like, “I feel like two days of my life have been wasted,” can feel less than rewarding—for trainer and participant alike.

But, so-called “strong” training varies. Business-critical learning, behavioral change and results are not always complimented by favorable evaluation response. It’s time to talk more about what our training evaluation data is actually communicating.

intercultures distributes a one-page, paper, “smiley face” evaluation to participants at the conclusion of each training. It classifies as a first-level evaluation on Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Training Evaluation Model. Level one captures respondents’ reactions; levels two through four are categorized as learning, behavior and results, respectively.

Deeper level evaluations are not often viable. It’s common that customers often do not have the budget and interest to invest in a more profound measure of impact. Even with engaging training, participants often fall over themselves to complete and hand in evaluations in order to return to work or home.

The quality of the conversation may matter more than the depth of the evaluation. A 30-minute debrief about what influenced the content of evaluations can greatly inform the learning of organizations, trainers and the learning of training participants.

Consider how the following three categories of culture affect participants’ evaluations:

  • Generational Culture. How do the workplace expectations and experiences on the part of various generations affect participants’ purpose in attending training, and what they find relevant?
  • National Culture. In country-specific schools systems and professional development programs, how are thoughts organized, what is the mode of learning, and who learns from whom?
  • Organizational Culture. How does the modus operandi of the organization influence participants’ belief that they will be able to find success by applying lessons learned?

Worse case scenario: Your participant is simply having a bad day!

In the building of cultural competence, sorting out our culture-based expectations is both the process by which global skills can be learned, and the learning product. It’s an experience that is not to be limited to the training room, but applied to how we work daily. Ahead of your next training, schedule a short debrief as one step toward creating a learning organization of the workplace.

 

Credit for image above: Getty Images.

intercultures is Open for Business as Usual in Iran

 

Note: The following article was included in our Sept. 2016 intercultures e-newsletter. Email the Editor to receive our next bi-monthly edition in your inbox well in advance of website postings. We offer fresh, intercultural information and insights for working better globally.

Azadi Tower, a cultural symbol of Tehran, Iran, which marks the west entrance of the city.

Azadi Tower, a cultural symbol of Tehran, Iran, which marks the west entrance of the city.

In Iran, it’s been “business as usual” for years. Despite the impact of economic sanctions made against the country over recent decades in an effort to influence Iranian policy, “the country has not been completely isolated from the international arena,” says Pari Namazie, an Iranian-born consultant with intercultures. From her perspective as co-owner of Atieh International, a business partner of intercultures with offices in Tehran, Iran and Vienna, Austria, “there has been quite a lot of international business” in Iran—and more to come as sanctions are gradually lifted. (See also 3-minute video below of intercultures interview with Pari Namazie on Iran.) “As hard as the sanctions were,” says Ms. Namazie, “it actually made Iran and Iranian companies more resilient.” From 2017 onwards, intercultures—in collaboration with Atieh International—will be the exclusive provider of global skills development in Germany, and one of few international providers offering support for teams and individuals working in Iran and/or with Iran.

 It is intentional that the opening photo for this feature article does not picture—with all due and gracious respect—an Ayatollah[i]. The image of a religious leader—while relevant to modern Iran—does not reflect the full picture of the country, and may reinforce a limited and inaccurate perception.

Instead, we sorted through photos from our recent visit to Tehran, and selected the image above of the Azadi Tower (meaning “liberty”; formerly named Shayad, meaning “King’s Memorial”). Like the smooth lines, pop of color and upward arch of the cultural symbol that is the Azadi Tower, the business opportunity in Iran is uniquely attractive.

Run a quick online search for the "Middle East" and you’ll find Iran pictured amongst a grouping of neighboring countries. Turkey and Iraq border the west of the country; Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan border the east, though are not traditionally considered part of the Middle East. In fact, Iran, too, is arguably not a part of the Middle East. Geographically, Iran is located in West Asia and borders the Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.

Run a quick online search for the “Middle East” and you’ll find Iran pictured amongst a grouping of neighboring countries. Turkey and Iraq border the west of the country; Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan border the east, though are not traditionally considered part of the Middle East. In fact, Iran, too, is arguably not a part of the Middle East. Geographically, Iran is located in West Asia and borders the Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.

See also our July 2016 e-newsletter article, The ‘Middle East’ Is Not What You Think.

By end of this year, you can expect that intercultures will have increased our current capacity to support your business in Iran—while maintaining the senior Iranian culture consultants with whom you may already be familiar. In collaboration with our partner in Iran, Atieh International, intercultures has run a train-the-trainer workshop in Tehran with experienced, local Atieh trainers to cover key topics in intercultural competence development. Support from intercultures will continue virtually.

In the coming year, customers can expect competent and comprehensive service offerings to meet a range of scenarios:
  • Inpats (inpatriates)[ii] who move to Iran on short or long-term assignment;
  • International project management teams located in Iran;
  • Proactive and reactive interventions related to team development and leadership coaching.
intercultures is equipped to deliver services in more remote locations of Iran, as well.
After his most recent work trip to Tehran, intercultures’ Managing Director, Stefan Meister, returned with a mental list of Iran’s business assets, including, and not limited to:
  • An internal market of approximately 80.2 million inhabitants[iii];
  • Relationships with geographic neighbors—though not always peaceful, as in the case of Iran and it’s now amicable relationship with Iraq;
  • A modern-minded society living in a 1970s or 80s infrastructure;
  • An adult literacy rate of 85%[iv];
  • And, according to Stefan, a highly educated—if not always highly skilled—workforce.

After multiple rounds of sanctions against Iran over the past three decades, the withdrawal of international sanctions against the country provide increased access for foreign companies to start (re)developing business and/or looking for collaboration partners and customers.

At the center of the map of Iran is the National Emblem, which has included the Arabic word Allah ("God") since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and is rendered in stylized characters from the Persian/ Farsi alphabet. Along each of the green and red bands is the Takbir (or, term from the Arabic phrase, Allahu akbar, meaning "God is (the) greatest"). Along both the bottom edge of the green ban and the top edge of the red band, the Takbir is written 11 times in Kufic script, the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts.

At the center of the map of Iran is the National Emblem, which has included the Arabic word Allah (“God”) since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and is rendered in stylized characters from the Persian/ Farsi alphabet. Along each of the green and red bands is the Takbir (or, term from the Arabic phrase, Allahu akbar, meaning “God is (the) greatest”). Along both the bottom edge of the green ban and the top edge of the red band, the Takbir is written 11 times in Kufic script, the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts.

Beyond the world of business, Stefan observed the complex mix that is contemporary Iran. While listening to live music in a plaza and moving himself to the music, he noticed that Iran “is a culture that has a government that does not allow its citizens to dance in public. This is a culture that has learned to dance while sitting, and without others noticing that they’re dancing. Despite all of that, they can still be happy and enjoy life and be incredibly generous.”

For him—and perhaps for you, too—Iran was a missing puzzle piece in his experience of our world’s map. “This is not the Arab world,” he said; nor is Iran the Middle East. The language of power in Iran is Farsi, and the country is considered a part of the West Asian region. Because of Iran’s uniqueness, it is a country and a culture to get to know on its own—and sooner than later. After all, Iran is open for business as usual, and more business competition is now crowding in.

 

Screenshot of intercultures' 2016 vlog series edition, "An Interview on Iran: Pari Namazie of intercultures".
Screenshot of intercultures’ 2016 vlog series edition, “An Interview on Iran: Pari Namazie of intercultures”
Working with Iran- now or in future? Work better globally with us. intercultures Consultant for Iran, Pari Namazie, is interviewed in this edition of intercultures’ 2016 vlog series. Click to view the video! This 3-minute video is released by intercultures as a part of our 2016 Vlog Series. It features Pari Namazie, a consultant working with intercultures, who is also co-owner of Atieh International, a business partner of intercultures’ with offices in Tehran, Iran and Vienna, Austria. intercultures’ Director of Global Network Communications, Malii Brown, facilitates a discussion about the current state of affairs with international business in Iran; what informs Ms. Namazie’s perspective on Iran; and what can help inform our perspectives on working with Iran. #WorkBetterGlobally

 

[i] Those who carry the title are experts in Islamic studies such as jurisprudence, Quran reading, and philosophy and usually teach in Islamic seminaries.

[ii] In business terms, an inpat (impatriate) is transferred from corporate headquarters to a country where the corporation has a subsidiary. An expat (expatriate) is transferred from the foreign subsidiary to the country of the corporate headquarters.

[iii]  Source: Worldometers (Sept. 2016 estimate).

[iv] Source: United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) (2008-2012). Includes persons aged 15+ who can read and write.

Credit for photo of Azadi Tower: Stefan Meister.

Source for regional map: By Cacahuate, amendments by Globe-trotter and Joelf (Own work based on the blank world map) [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Source for flag of Iran: By Various – URL http://www.isiri.org/portal/files/std/1.htm and an English translation / interpretation at URL http://flagspot.net/flags/ir’.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3662823.

“Womenomics”: Renewing Economy in the Land of the Rising Sun

 

Note: The following article was included in our Sept. 2016 intercultures e-newsletter. Email the Editor to receive our next bi-monthly edition in your inbox well in advance of website postings. We offer fresh, intercultural information and insights for working better globally.

Photo credit: Getty Images.

Photo credit: Getty Images.

Business interests are competing with culture in Japan like two powerful forces in a boxing ring. In one corner stands Japan’s near-future shortage of “people power” in the workplace. In the opposing corner, the traditional gender roles of Japanese culture offer a worthy challenge to change. Truth be told, culture is not the enemy; it’s in fact the most effective means by which to implement strategic advancement. 
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has positioned himself as a champion of so-called “womenomics” in Japan, a plan that targets the employment and promotion of women. The financial motive is that opening opportunity for women in the Japanese workforce will positively influence the nation’s economy. A new law to implement the plan was announced last year, and is effective between April of 2016 through March 2026.

Here are the stats:

  • Of “career-track” job hires (sogoshoku) in Japan, 22% of hires are women[i].
  • Women make up less than 10% of senior positions in big companies in Japan[ii].
  • Big companies are now required to appoint women to 15% of senior positions in less than four years, by the year 2020[iii].
  • Another intended outcome of the new law is to raise the rate of employed women in Japan by 5%—from 68% to 73%—also by 2020.
Representation of women in the workplace is a basic “win” for womenomics. In order to decrease the professional achievement gap between the genders, women must be present and progressively advancing through opportunities offered in the workplace. As in many countries, a gap in labor force participation rates lends to the challenge, with men outnumbering and outpacing women. As a result, there is a current shortage of workingwomen in Japan who are sufficiently prepared for higher-level professional roles, despite the cultural expectation that they will pause or stop work to become primary caretakers of their children. See how your country weighs in on a comparison of employment rates by sex across 55 select countries, including Japan: Click to the International Labor Organization’s “Global Employment Trends for Women” report (2012) and scroll to Figure 3 on page 15 as printed on the document.

Before placing your bets, consider how womenomics in Japan will play out under the following conditions:

  • The new law applies to Japanese companies with 301 or more employees. Companies that meet this criterion—as well as central and local Japanese governments—will be required to make related analysis, set numerical targets and share their plans with the public.
  • Companies decide their own goals to advance women in the workplace. There are no penalties if companies fail to reach their targets.
  • Nearly three-fifths of workingwomen are non-regular workers (e.g., part-timers or temporary staff). The new legislation does not make provisions for such workers.
While the workplace contribution of women in Japan may look very different in your country of residence, you’re never too far from gender inequality anywhere around the world. The World Economic Forum ranks Japan at an overall 104th place on their 2014 Global Gender Gap Index, as determined by economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political opportunity. Japan scores just ahead of other countries in a similar “weight class”: India (ranking: 114), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (115) and Nigeria (119). Japan scores just behind Ghana (ranking: 101), Indonesia (97), Greece (91) and Guatemala (89). Curious who ranks among the top five of the Global Gender Gap Index?

For those in the business world who may gather like a street crowd to watch a good fight with a certain victor, we wager that they witness something better in the case of womenomics in Japan. We believe that something better is how people use culture to respond to seemingly impossibility in the world around us in order to survive, innovate and thrive. Perhaps contrary to how the impossible is spoken about in Japan and viewed culturally, we’ll end this piece with a quote from the GOAT (greatest of all time), world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali:

“Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

 

[i] Source: Female empowerment law first step, but male-oriented work culture must change: experts (7 Sept. 2015).

[ii] Source: Corporate Japan struggles to promote women workers: Abe womenomics policy sets sights on cultural change but progress is slow (11 Jan. 2016).

[iii] Source: Same as endnote ii.

VIDEO: “An Interview on Iran with intercultures Consultant Pari Namazie”

 

Screenshot of intercultures' 2016 vlog series edition, "An Interview on Iran: Pari Namazie of intercultures".

Screenshot of intercultures’ 2016 vlog series edition, “An Interview on Iran: Pari Namazie of intercultures”.

Working with Iran- now or in future? Work better globally with us. intercultures Consultant for Iran, Pari Namazie, is interviewed in this edition of intercultures’ 2016 vlog series. Click to view the video!