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September 4, 2015

Cultural curiosity strengthens business

Ian's Morning Musing image

It was probably six or seven years ago that I first came across the humour of Russell Peters. Peters, the son of Indian immigrants, is arguably Brampton’s most celebrated cultural export and he has developed his comedic insights by studying multiculturalism. If you have not seen his presentation style, I suggest you watch his routine, “somebody gonna get a hurt real bad.”

I think it is fair to say that his worldwide success lays, in large measure, with his ability to study common practices, eccentricities and dialects of different nationalities. Some might consider his characterizations to be offensive, but regardless of our origins, he has demonstrated, through his audiences, that we do have an ability to see ourselves as others might see us. A little self-deprecation now and again is not such a bad thing.

From an HR standpoint, since our workforces in Canada are so cosmopolitan, is success not determined by our ability to embrace our similarities as well as our differences? Multiculturalism in Canada is, after all, the sense of an equal celebration of racial, religious and cultural backgrounds.

Global workplaceOur SCNetwork event on September 16th is entitled, “The World of Business is International – Are You Equipped to Succeed?” Our presenter is the COO of a global enterprise and he will be discussing the skills needed to be globally successful. It is axiomatic to suggest that an ability to learn, understand and appreciate different cultures will be a critical component of any global leader’s success. However, even if your company is national, not global, given our diverse workforces, should we not expect that cultural literacy and adaptability is a core skill of HR leadership regardless? Literature often refers to this as having a global mindset, which contains an appreciation for the merits of other cultures, as well as recognition that global economic changes will have a ripple effect here in Canada.

This past week, for example, anyone with equity investments, including pension plans, will be feeling the effects of China’s economic challenges. In global organizations, uncontrollable events that can occur in any part of the world may lead to business opportunities should that company be able to shift resources quickly.

At the HRPS conference in April, Bill George, the former chairman and CEO of Medtronic, spoke about the new global leaders. He cited the example of Mark Zuckerberg, who as a leader wanted a deeper understanding of China, and therefore made a concerted effort to learn Mandarin so he could attempt to converse with Chinese students. There is already a great deal written about global leader competencies, but George shared what he believed were the seven elements, which he dubbed as GQ – “global intelligence.”

These are:

  • Adaptability to a changing world
  • Self-awareness
  • Cultural curiosity
  • Empathy
  • Alignment
  • Collaboration
  • Integration

Greater detail on all of these is contained in the HR People & Strategy Journal – Summer 2015 issue.

So building cultural curiosity is an opportunity we all have when we travel. What can we learn from these new experiences? Can we do a quick study like Russell Peters? And, closer to home, do we not have a better appreciation and understanding of other rich traditions, when we attend Chinese, Indian or Filipino weddings? Moreover, our own children today, have an intense desire to travel and are far more globally aware than prior generations. There are lots of opportunities in HR to cater to our cultural curiosity and lots to be learned from a COO who has built both national and global businesses.

What challenges do you face when conducting business abroad?
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Ian Hendry headshoptIan Hendry is the president of the Strategic Capability Network. In his Morning Musings, he provides insight on issues facing today’s business leaders and looks at subject matter related to upcoming SCNetwork events. He is also VP HR & Administration at Interac Assocation.


Filed under: diversity, global business, leadership, morning musing, multiculturalism Tagged: diversity, global business, leadership, morning musing, multicultralism
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