Developing Cross‑cultural Business Intelligence
The decision to grow through international expansion can be rewarding, but the path to success is filled with obstacles. Each country has special laws, languages, cultural practices, education and skill levels, infrastructure condition and economic and political forces. Understanding the forces at work in a new country that drive the business and legal environment and how they affect your company is a necessary first step in international expansion.
What is Culture?
Culture is a shared collection of knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, customs, styles, values and norms that govern behavior and are acquired through membership in society. A person’s cultural outlook influences their opinion of outsiders and the rest of the world.
The best international business leaders respect cultural and linguistic differences and how these influence decision-making. Insensitivity and ignorance to cultural difference is a primary cause of miscommunication and failed business results. As a result, good international business leaders embrace the ways different cultures value ideas of time, personal space, body language, personal greetings, mannerisms, and religious practices.
Characteristics of Successful International Business Professionals
One critical trait needed to be successful in international business is the desire to learn and be receptive to the ways of other cultures. A number of books are available that provide insights and advice on working with specific foreign cultures. It is also helpful to meet with other members of the culture to gain experience and watch. Watching foreign television and reading newspapers can also provide important insights. A number of free resources are available that provide reception of foreign television channels.
▪ Business Conduct
What is acceptable business behavior in one country is unacceptable in another. For this reason, international business professionals need to understand key questions concerning business conduct. These include: How are negotiations usually conducted? Is gift giving expected? What is the proper attire for a business meeting? How are greetings made?
▪ Rules of Thumb
Recognize and adapt to foreign customs: Before your trip, learn about the values, beliefs, behaviors, and gestures of the host country.
Hire professional translators and interpreters: Carefully screen translators and interpreters.
Treat those you meet as individuals: Toss out any preconceived notions you may and consider each person an individual.
Slow down: Present your message slowly and refrain from using jokes, metaphors and idioms that may confuse foreign audiences. Pause regularly and ask questions. The body language of foreigners can be easily misunderstood, so always clarify your thoughts and ideas.
Adjust behavior: Replicate the style, tone and behavior of the person or people you are meeting.
Show respect: Learn how respect is shown in other cultures.