Dean explains the “iceberg” model of culture - the iceberg may represent completely different ways of valuing and understanding the world (see image).
- The degree to which I need to build trust before I can feel comfortable with you.
- Latin America = simpatico; need for great trust before working together
- In the business world, we first due the job and the success of the transaction is what builds the trust
- Knowing these cultural differences allows us to extrapolate what business behaviors to expect
- Susan: In her experience, many more cultures build trust first than resort to the contract why of getting things done.
- This has also been Dean’s experience. This is why Dean says that globalization, even though it has expended many business that prefer the contract style of getting work done, has not altered the fundamental elements of cultures that prefer to build relationships first.
- Western business perspective is: Well after 30 years of globalization, can’t people just get it already? Just write the contract/get the thing done
- So we live in a society that wants to get these big business deals made, but the culture of various countries does not support that, and this may cause frustration
Is cultural competence necessary to bring a group together?
- Dean: I think you can even if all the participants are not at a desirable level of cultural competence
- The fundamental issue is building common ground. This usually involves culture but it does have to. If we are trying to build common ground across culture, what we want to do is use cultural differences to foster common ground. We don’t want them to become problems or obstacles.
- Susan: Recalls interview with Rabia Roberts and how her work with her husband was very much influenced by how they each saw different cultures from their own gendered perspective. They had a different world view and would see the same scenarios differently
- Dean agrees. Gender is just one way of group cross cultural groups. There are many: gender, race, privilege level, class, etc.
- How a particular culture responds to these groupings is the question at hand
- In Myanmar, genders interact differently than they would in Sweden
- Sweden is known as an egalitarian culture. The expectation is that women and men share equal responsibilities in most all aspects of society
- In Myanmar, there is a more hierarchical structure where gender determines how men and women interact in society or whether they interact in certain circumstances at all
- This question of gender becomes cultural when the culture has to decide how people are going to address these various identities
How do you define cultural competence?
Cultural competence is the ability to see how others see you and to understand what you can do about accelerating the achievement of a common goal. Do I know enough about this other culture to build common ground across the differences we may have? What is my ability to make that happen?
Role of culture in peacebuilding initiatives? Reflections on that?
- Dean brings it back to his childhood in a multicultural environment and how safe it was and this is based on a certain degree of privilege. He was able to approach difference with excitement and know that things were going to be great and work themselves out. This would not hinder his ability to build close friendships across cultures.
- This becomes a struggle when people are not used to approaching cultural difference with curiosity and excitement; when they dread intercultural relationships, when the mystery is a negative
- In multicultural context when people don’t have a clear understanding of their own needs, culture becomes a reason why things won’t work out. The projection process occurs when I project my fears on your difference and your difference becomes the reason things don’t work out. But if we approach this more positively, where we understand our needs and the other’s needs, we can use the cultural differences as ways to achieving those needs. The first step (1) is figuring out who you are. Next (2), understand what the cultural differences are. (3) Then using those differences to give people what they need.
- Susan: If there is not trust in the room, people begin to behave in “group centric” ways where certain identities begin to divide the room. When their is more trust in the room, the cultural differences are there, but they do not separate people. It is more likely that people will be tolerant and appreciative of difference
- Dean absolutely agrees. He has seen this happen and he would like to see it happen more. He sees business groups enter negotiations with independent agendas and cultural differences simply become opportunities to blame the “other” group for the failure of the deal
- If we are creating a more collaborative environment where everyone’s needs are at the table and if we can have both groups see these needs objectively and understand why the other culture group has these needs, we can begin to work with those differences and help them achieve the common ground that everyone is looking for.
- Susan: Discusses Bob Stains episode where he emphasizes how important it is to set everything up prior to the negotiation and to work with each person and each group prior to them entering a space with “the other.” Is this permitted in business interactions?
- Dean says that, to a degree, his team is able to do this. They want to help each side and each individual to reflect on what his/her/their needs are, what sort of agenda they are bringing to the table, what do they expect of others, etc. Always subject to the reality which does not always permit all this preparation.
Final words of wisdom? Particularly for younger listeners
- We’re not all becoming the same even though we have greater cultural contact than ever before in human history. We have a choice due to this opportunity. We can see the differences that exist and acknowledge that they are profound and see them as ways to understand the world from ways we had not thought of before. We can find new answers to old problems. We can find new ways of thinking from other cultures. Or we can choose to see these differences as threats and choose not to see the opportunity presented to us. We can use this cultural difference to blame cultures we are unfamiliar with for whatever difficulty or failure we are encountering. This is a choice. History tells us that increased intercultural interaction does not create greater feelings of peace, brotherhood/sisterhood/siblinghood, kum-ba-ya. This is not automatic. Intercultural interactions to not automatically create the kind of peacebuilding we are looking to do. In fact, initially, it may create exactly the opposite. But this does not take into account the part about understanding culture and oneself as a cultural being. Knowledge about how to remain authentic while still understanding what others need. We have a gift right now to be able to interact with other cultures and learn about them and to learn about how we can accelerate building common ground.
- Susan: Believes this understanding help her understand what it means to be truly human.
- Dean: it also increases our sense of mystery and wonder which is what has kept him in this field for so long.
Dean Foster; Founder, DFA Intercultural Global Solutions, LLC
Executive Strategic Consultant, Dwellworks Intercultural
For over two decades, Dean Foster, has been involved in researching, writing about, and consulting on the nature of culture and its role in society, work and politics in a globalizing world. As founder and former Worldwide Director of Berlitz Cross-Cultural, DFA Intercultural Services, and currently Executive Strategic Consultant for Dwellworks Intercultural, Dean, based in NYC, has played a central role in the development of the field of cross-cultural training and consulting.
Dean works with most major Fortune 500 companies, national governments and NGOs (the United Nations and World Trade Institutes, among others), and as guest lecturer and faculty for a variety of premier educational institutions, such as Harvard Business School, Columbia University School of Business, NYU, Darden Business School, and others. His work has taken him to over 95 countries. He is the host on CNN of the nationwide “Doing Business in…” series. Dean is also a frequent guest commentator on culture, global work and social issues for CNN, CNBC, the BBC and other radio and TV shows; and has been interviewed in Newsweek, USA Today, the New York Times, and elsewhere.
Dean is a familiar presenter at major international conferences related to international cultural issues. He is an active member of and speaker at the annual international conferences of Worldwide ERC©, the National Foreign Trade Council, the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), the International Institute for Human Resources (IIHR), and other organizations. In 2012 Dean was inducted in Worldwide ERC’s prestigious “Hall of Leaders”, and in 2013 received the Forum for Expatriate Management’s acclaimed Lifetime Achievement Award.
Dean has written many articles as well as the book, Bargaining Across Borders, published by McGraw-Hill and voted as one of the top ten business books of the year in 1994 by the American Library Association. Dean’s other books include The Global Etiquette Guide to Europe , The Global Etiquette Guide to Asia, The Global Etiquette Guide to Africa & The Middle East and The Global Etiquette Guide to Latin America. Dean was a Contributing Editor with National Geographic, writing the monthly “CultureWise” column, appearing in National Geographic Traveler Magazine. Dean is on the faculty of American University, Intercultural Management Institute, Washington, DC, and he received his Master’s degree in Sociology from the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, NYC.
You can contact Dean via his email firstname.lastname@example.org.