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Developing Intercultural Competence in Business

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  • 0:03 Culture &…
  • 1:25 DMIS in Practice
  • 4:30 Adaption & Integration
  • 5:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Allison Tanner

Allison has a Masters of Arts in Political Science

How do you learn to work with your international partner who seems to do things so differently than you? This lesson will explain how intercultural competence can help your international business be successful.

Culture & International Business

You wake up, grab a coffee, run to your office, get to work, and you can't remember the last time you took a vacation. If this is you, you're probably American. This go-getter, non-stop working style is commonly highlighted when businesses discuss American working culture.

Culture, or the common beliefs, values, and practices of a group, influence how we interact with others and what we perceive to be acceptable working practices. In international business you'll likely work with a diverse group of people, including those from different cultural backgrounds. This means not everyone will have the same fast-paced work ethic that you do.

Intercultural competence, or the ability to recognize and appreciate the many cultures of our world, will be essential to your ability to effectively handle these differences. Furthermore, this skill set is crucial to the success or failure of your business in the international arena.

There are many ways in which cultural differences can be addressed. The Bennett Model, also known as the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS), is a cognitive-based theory that considers individual perceptions of another culture and includes a six-stage process to accepting cultural differences. Okay, get your bags ready, you're headed on an adventure to learn about DMIS through a business deal in India.

DMIS in Practice

Imagine that your boss tells you that your company is partnering with a new clothing manufacturer based in India, and that you're going to formulate the contract and close the deal. In preparation for your up-and-coming business trip to India, you spend hours examining the contract and consult with several lawyers to make sure every detail is perfect.

However, you've never worked internationally, and you've never personally met anyone from India. You know that people from India are different from Americans, but this is business, and business is the same everywhere, right?

This lack of knowledge and experience with working internationally may be causing you to deny important cultural differences, which is the failure to recognize the unique cultural features of another group. Even though there may be some relatively universal characteristics to conducting business, such as the use of a contract, the process to reaching the business deal and signing the contract may differ drastically by country.

So you continue on your trip and around 3 p.m., you arrive at your hotel. Your Indian partner, Aadi, lets you know that you should meet him for dinner at 8 p.m. Eager to get to work, you are frustrated that he doesn't want to meet right away, and who eats dinner at 8 p.m.?

You suggest meeting at 6 p.m., even starting to argue that 8 p.m. is just too late. Aadi insists that you meet him at the time he has specified and you resentfully agree.

Being defensive against cultural differences is the belief that your culture's way of doing things is best. Everyone should eat dinner at 6 p.m., and it's strange, weird, and even wrong to eat dinner later than that. When confronted with this difference you might become agitated and frustrated and even suggest that the other person isn't normal.

Discouraged, and on a tight timeline, you make it to dinner. After initial greetings, you begin to discuss the details in the contract. Aadi, who has already ordered dinner for everyone, ignores your mention of the deal, introduces you to his cousin, wife, and children, and begins asking you questions about your family. Also, Aadi ordered chicken tikka masala, your favorite Indian dish. Did he know that you loved this?

As you eat dinner and discuss your family, this experience makes you feel like you are pretty similar to Aadi. Minimizing the differences by making note of commonalities allows you begin to feel like Aadi isn't that different after all. Sure, he eats at a strange time, but you like similar foods, and your family has similar characteristics.

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