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Cultural Intelligence – Getting out of the Culture Whole

By Deborahswa Subscribe to RSS | July 5th 2012 | Views:

When we think of “culture”, we may see pictures, remember what we were taught in a geography class in school or think that sophisticated stereotypes represent the values and behaviors of a country and its people. A large body of culture specialists exist working in this area including – academics, students and practitioners. Some of them are now feeling frustrated or even trapped by cultural oversimplifications. Psychometric tests, models and questionnaires appear to reduce and limit the individual or team being measure. This article puts light on Cultural Intelligence in Business.

Before we get too lightheaded with our dream of a utopian understanding of all people by everybody, let us place our feet back on the ground and realize that work in practice must be to paid for. Coaches, trainers, business people and academics live within a framework of capitalism, personal and career development and they all have mortgages and roles within communities.

Within the context of business, the question is – What is not working? What is not being fixed by culture theory at the moment? And what culture training will be relevant to business in the future as power becomes distributed to non-Western countries? Nearer to home, George Renwick, has already identified that culture training assignments are getting shorter, cheaper and less popular. Many predict the end of cultural awareness training, corporate employee relocation training and certainly the methods and models that are commonly used at the moment.

We can acknowledge that everyone in business has values, drivers and habits that have been given to them by their families, institutions, language and human interactions. We can choose to see emotions as pre-programmed patterns of reaction that, in the past, have aided survival. Further, we can see that human consciousness gives us feelings and choices as to how to respond. This has lead us to create social structures such as justice, kindness, art, science, community and our economic system.

In our existing frame of business life, we have ego and a need to control, improve, change, develop, speed up, make better and do more. We have self -limiting beliefs, ego triggers and the basic human needs of security, stimulation, meaning and connection. Moreover in business we experience power plays, judgements, pre-conceptions and competitive listening. We experience defense, denial and negative emotional responses. These can be seen as business people operating from a state of scarcity and fear.

Our framework of beliefs, assumptions and roles give us a subjective reality through which we interpret what we see and hear. We challenge or reject what does not fit within our frame and we make exceptions for what appears not to fit but should be inside the box. How can we move toward something else? What intention must we have to generate empowering thoughts?

It can begin by raising your consciousness of the frames and patterns that we are in. Naming the frame can free you to see from a slightly different perspective. Escaping the Western superior view is easy once you realize that your tone, language, expectations and general behavior come from a context of empire. When someone with Empire beliefs is high - then correspondingly the non-Empire person feels low. This is where Cultural Intelligence comes into the frame.

In a business context, the first sign of “the holistic revolution” may be seen in the decision making process. There may be a shift from the old blame culture, threat reduction paradigms and avoidance of punishment models to a new reality of empathic listening, openness to synergy and the creation of a platform for equal status and collaborative relationships. It is when we can escape our cultural boxes those exciting new business possibilities and opportunities become visible.

For those who have experimented and experienced non-western knowledge based exchanges, this type of conversation will appear relatively natural and normal. The journey starts with an intention to have a go and to see what happens. More than tolerance and patients, it is the intention to let go of the ego. It is in being prepared to pay the price of embarrassment. Is it worth a red face, to find a beautiful new way of being? Is it worth giving up the certainty of today to find a different reality tomorrow? If you wish to look more info on Cultural Intelligence, see

Deborahswa - About Author:
Hello, I'm Deborah Swallow and, for the last fifteen years, I've worked in over thirty countries addressing the complexities of people working internationally across multiple cultures . To know more about Cross Culture Awareness and Cultural Intelligence, visit us on the web.

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