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Communication Services

White Paper

What are intercultural competencies and why are they important?

It's hard to find a corner of the globe where McDonald's, Microsoft and Coca-Cola are not recognizable brands. If your company is considering expanding outside of the United States, you could learn a few valuable lessons from these firms.

Any corporation that has successfully penetrated other markets realizes the benefits of understanding and addressing the unique differences of each market. This means translating your signage, marketing materials and documents into another language. Even more important and often overlooked, is the ability for your managers to walk into a new country possessing the intercultural competencies necessary to establish strong working relationships with subordinates, business associates and clients.

The brief definition of intercultural competencies is simply the skills and attributes professionals need to succeed in an international environment. What may seem like a simple concept is really quite complex and addresses much more than just knowing how to dress or how to exchange a business card.

So what is the solution?

Individualized training tailored to helping your executives excel in a particular market increases the ability to reach business goals across cultures. A conceptual training plan focusing on the development of intercultural competence should include the following components:

The cognitive aspects, such as cross-cultural awareness or mindfulness, knowledge of cross-cultural fundamentals and tools and specific country or region specific know-how.

Specific behavioral skills, which include cross-cultural communication or behavior necessary to build trusting and sustainable relationships.

Emotional intelligence This can be seen as a vehicle to manage a relationship in a more effective and culturally sensitive way. EI also helps individuals manage personal transformation and stress aspects, which are essential for working or interacting in a culturally diverse environment.

Culture has often been defined using the iceberg analogy; there's much more to it than meets the eye. The surface culture is easy to see - dress, etiquette, manners and laws. Just as there's more to an iceberg than what is immediately visible, the deep cultural issues - values, attitudes, accepted ways of behavior, thought patterns, etc. - are somewhat hidden. These hidden elements are an essential ingredient to fully comprehending the mindset of the market.

The following questions can help you decide your need for intercultural competencies:

  1. Are you familiar with cross-cultural aspects of doing business abroad?
  2. Are you aware of your own and others cultural values and how they might impact cross-cultural interaction(s)?
  3. Do you have proven international leadership skills?
  4. Are you able to adjust your negotiation, communication, presentation, and team leading style etc. to avoid cross-cultural misunderstandings?
  5. Are you attentive to non-verbal cues in intercultural interactions?