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Are you preparing to work with people from another culture? What kind of feelings and thoughts are filling your heart and mind?

Success in new markets certainly depends on a number of things ranging from the strength of your market analysis, the positioning of your offering to customer solutions and management of glocal business complexities.  However, regardless of what business you are in, the ability to work well across cultures will be critical in helping you succeed in your business endeavors.

Today, the intercultural and international/global business fields offer great models and knowledge to navigate the cultural complexities in addition to the economic and administrative complexities of international business.  However, to leverage the usefulness of all these resources my experience as a trainer and coach shows that one needs to switch to a different mindset – a mindset of curiosity.

An experienced professional wanting to work in different markets is typically concerned with the following “how” questions:

  • How do I not offend?
  • How can I get across effectively what I mean?
  • How can I build trust?
  • How can I be a person people enjoy to work with?
  • How can I truly compliment core local values that are of essence to other people while respecting the values I want to stand for because they are so important to me?

To answer the above questions it is useful to continue asking even more detailed questions:

  • What are critical business skills that will help me, my team or organization succeed?
  • How do these get influenced by cultural differences?
  • What specifically can offend?
  • What kind of behavior do people in a specific new market believe is effective?
  • Which values drive the effectiveness behavior in the new market and how do these influence people’s perceptions?
  • Is this the way I would approach situations?
  • Which values influence my behavior?
  • How much do I know about the origins and achievements of the foreign culture and my own culture?
  • How much do I know about what makes people laugh and relax in the other culture?
  • How much flexibility can I demonstrate sincerely when adapting to the other culture?
  • Am I aware of my nonnegotiable values which I may need to communicate effectively to people from the other culture?
  • Do I have a rich repertoire of different ways of communicating thoughts and feelings?

When working across cultures and prior to starting to evaluate any appropriate business or management models it is important to ask if you are starting the entire process with a “mindset of wonder” rather than “judgment” which I want to describe as the “mindset of curiosity”.  This in particular will help you identify and put all resources for success into good use especially because international business resources can come from unconventional places like conversations, some type of collaboration, a lot of times as a lesson from an awkward moment and simulations trainers can create to bring this type of experience into the classroom or coaching situation.  Without the “mindset of curiosity” it is possible to oversee good advice, clues and most importantly goodwill.  In this aspect, I believe that adults actually may have a lot to learn from children who no matter which country a playground is in tend to be able to have a great time with other children.  If we asked them “So how did it feel to play in this new playground?” the answer is most likely to be “Oh, it was so much fun! Tomorrow, can we go to another park please?”.

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