Diversity has always been around, we have just tried to ignore it. The ones who were proactive and culturally intelligent are the ones now who are thriving in this economy. It is still not too late to catch up!
Customers and employees become disengaged and they choose your competition when they feel frustrated, confused or dissatisfied. Understanding how cultural background, such as generation, gender, profession, nationality AND personality type influence how they feel, think and behave is the strategic advantage of successful companies and managers.
Although…this is easier to be said than done.
What has changed?
The world is rapidly changing: increasing globalisation and mobility of workforce, super-connected cities and countries, dealing with people of many different national, ethnic, cultural, social, and generational backgrounds on a daily basis.
Companies can hire the best of the best from all over the world and they can do business in almost any countries. Still, over 70% of international projects fail. Why? Because culture is not just about arts and literature, it is the software of the mind, it determines how we think, behave and make decisions. If the programs are compatible, everything runs smoothly, if they are not, they will crash badly. That is one of the main reasons why the UK loses £48 billion a year according to UKTI (2015).
Why is it not about common sense?
Culture is our blueprint…what the world should be like… Cultural Intelligence is the ability to read the blueprint…it is one of the main parts of global mindset.
Just imagine that you see the blueprint of your house for the first time and we assume you are not an engineer or architect. Even if you live there, you are not aware of different parts, different technical terms, how things work…for instance how the wires are connected so when you switch on the light, it is bright inside….it just happens.
If somebody asks you to explain how it works, after all, you have been living there for years, probably you couldn’t explain it. As our identity has both learnt and inherited parts as well, and we are often unaware of them, most people would find it difficult to explain all the imprinted values and beliefs influencing us. Once we learn to read a blueprint, the structure behind cultural intelligence, we will be able to recognise and understand behaviour in a fast-paced, multicultural environment
Global mindset is not about learning how to like people from other cultures, it is about learning to understand them…if we can see a situation from their perspective, we might find out that there is a better solution or one that is equally logical to ours.
Diversity without inclusion turns into liability
We have heard a lot about Diversity recently. It is a buzzword. It is trendy.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a buzzword as a slogan created by a group of people working within a business just to generate hype. Some companies employ people who are different across dimensions like gender, age and race, who have different experiences and perspectives. They talk about diversity like teenagers talk about sex:
”Of course, we do it and we are great at it!”
Usually that is not the case and although practice makes perfect, it is not enough without some specific knowledge.
Have you ever fallen out with your colleagues because you did not agree on something? Or maybe you felt you could not contradict your parents? You felt frustrated and inferior? Well, that was not inclusive then! Be inclusive first before you get more diverse, it will not work the other way round. Increasing diversity without understanding it is like buying new software for our computer without knowing if it is compatible or it will crash the system. DIVERSITY is the mixture of differences; INCLUSION is the right mixture of people managed with Cultural Intelligence. One is a minefield and the other is a gold mine
The Global Mindset
The world is our BIG DATA and we filter all that incredible amount of information through our unconscious biases…the little categories we try to fit everything we see. The conscious mind is limited, it tries to analyse the information while the unconscious mind starts seeing a pattern we might not even be aware of..
Our biases are influenced by our background, cultural environment, personal experiences and they have enormous impact on what we consider to be true and logical. Even if we refuse to admit it, we all have this…we all have a first impression of someone which seldom changes. The reason is not necessarily our expertise in understanding people, but the subconscious distortion of the information processes by our brain….
Unconscious bias is like Google’s “I’m feeling lucky” function: we quickly find what we are looking for. Most of the people are quite happy about this function, it saves time and hassle with the added bonus of feeling fortunate.
Global Mindset is about connecting with ourselves and others by learning to see the world from different perspectives. Instead of relying on ‘feeling lucky’ we make some effort to check different results, different ways of searching so we might find something even better than we were looking for!
Step 1: Building Awareness
The foundation of cultural intelligence is understanding how our personality and cultural background influences the way we see the world and how others see us. Without a strong sense of who you are and how your own culture has influenced and shaped you, you are very unlikely to know how to respond to other cultures or have the confidence to mediate our behaviour in the light of our discoveries. This is the first step where we consciously notice diversity.
Step 2: Building Competency
Diversity exists because different cultures have found different ways of solving a problem. Understanding the logic behind their thinking allows us to find better ways or at least to accept theirs. There is a scientific structure behind behaviour which explains that we are all unique, but predictably different. This is the step where we consciously understand diversity.
Step 3: Building Skills
Pointing out differences does not help too much…we need to find similarities and complementary traits to build a common ground. The difference between knowing something and applying that knowledge is the difference between success and failure. This is the step where we consciously turn diversity into inclusion by learning how to make the most of our differences.
Global mindset is the result of cultural intelligence, although it is never a final product of it. This is a never-ending process with the highest return on investment as 85% of success is down to people skills.
Csaba Toth MA, MSC, FCMI, is European Managing Partner of ICQ Consulting which helps clients measure and leverage personal and cultural differences to turn diversity into profitable inclusion instead of a painful liability.
He developed the internationally accredited and endorsed framework InterCultural DISC™ which helps people understand and connect with others who have different behaviour and communication styles due to their cultural background. The book, Intercultural DISC™ , is due out soon.
Contact Csaba on csaba@ICQConsulting.com or feel free to connect with him on Linkedin.