The Grey Chronicles

2009.January.28

Geocentric Mindset


Transcultural Management

Transcultural Management

In his book Transcultural Management, Furakawa (1997) identified seven “mental disciplines” important in the development of geocentric managers—those individuals who can work effectively across cultures in a global context. These disciplines apply equally as well to managing diversity in domestic settings:

1. Observe without judgment. Observation is the key to increasing one’s understanding of other cultures. However, when people observe, they tend to see through judgmental lenses that immediately characterize each behavior they see as being good or bad. It is important to turn off the judgmental switch when learning how others think. They operate by different norms and social rules that must first be understood before they can be judged.”

Annotations: Observation uses the five senses—sight, taste, hear, touch and feel. Judgment is the ability to come to opinions about things; the power of comparing and deciding; an understanding; or good sense. Observing, per see, is objective if only we pay attention to what we are observing; but once we give out our opinions on things, the subjectivity of our judgments can be clouded by our own upbringing, biases and mind set. Sometimes, people are close-minded that they cannot just switch off being derogatorily judgmental.

2. Tolerate ambiguity. Societies do not operate in a black and white world; realize that there will be times when behaviors are erratic and rules are unclear. One will find it difficult if one function under the assumption that all people of a certain culture will behave in a consistent fashion.”

Annotations: Generalizations are just that: generalizations. Even if we know the attributes of one society to be true; more often than not, there is something that is a cut above the rest or there might be something out of the extraordinary. The only true commonly shared thing by human beings are our emotions: happiness or anguish; love or hatred, etc.

3. Practice style shifting. Similar to the concept of “When in Rome, do as the Romans,” one should work on adopting some new behaviors that fit the local culture.”

Annotations: In the same sense, when in the Philippines, do as the Filipinos! Filipinos take their meals seriously; for us its nourishment to make our bodies have the energy to do our toils. Mocking this obsession of eating meals at the scheduled time, is not adopting to fit in. Imposing one’s own culture to a majority, is like forcing a square peg on a round hole.

4. Flip one’s perception. Until one sees the world in another perspective, one cannot really understand other people’s world. Perceptions are obviously culturally biased. When one catch oneself making assumptions about another culture, look at the situation from a different angle. If one had been born and raised in that society, how might one’s perceptions be altered?”

Annotations: Assumptions are arbitrary. They change over time; as well as change our own perceptions. A trapezoid is really a rectangle when seen from a different angle.

5. Reprogram one’s questions. By challenging one’s assumptions and culturally biased perceptions, one will begin to seek answers to questions one had not previously considered. One cannot apply Western logic to an issue in an Asian cultural context. To understand how another culture operates, one need to begin thinking as if one were a member of that culture. This is another reason why learning to speak multiple languages is so powerful. When one become fluent in a language, one “thinks” in that language, which enables one to ask questions that are relevant to that culture, not necessarily to one’s own.”

Annotations: Learning the syntax and idioms of the host country’s language could break cultural barriers. But living like a native takes that one step higher. I once saw a movie where a young man wanted to learn French and instead of learning it through grammar books, he came to live with a young beautiful tutor for a year. The tutor insisted on speaking French and nary a word in English for the entire duration. Not only the young man learned grammar after a year, he also thought things over in French, and ended marrying her.

6. Work interdependently. Seek ways in which cultural differences can be leveraged to improve performance. There will be synergistic connections where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts when both parties contribute. This may require some sacrifice and compromise, especially at first, in order to find the right platform upon which both parties can effectively interact. ”

Annotations: Collaboration is better than to clobber the synergy of core competencies. Remember that as a foreigner, you are considered as a guest of the host country, thus the locals will treat you as their guest; but do not assume that you have become their self-appointed king or know-it-all expert!

7. Keep mental stability and growth. Perhaps it is self-evident that operating across cultures can be challenging and disorienting. Living and working outside one’s home country can be, and should be, a significant learning experience. However, it does require a certain level of emotional maturity and mental stability in order to move across cultural settings.”

Annotations: Expats‘ emotional intelligence, particularly with regard to empathy and self-regulation, plays a vital requirement as good candidates for working in global enterprises that require cross-cultural understanding and communication.


Notes:

Furakawa, Atsushi (1997). Transcultural Management, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 02 May 1997. 256pp. back to text

Disclaimer : The posts on this site are my own and doesn’t necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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