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Respecting the cultures of others can be beneficial

Last week we looked at some costly business mistakes that could have been avoided if companies had instilled cultural intelligence and respect for other cultures in their managers and employees. This time we’ll look at how companies, who received cultural training, have had unusual success by showing respect for and curiosity about local conditions.

  • Even small gestures of respect can yield big dividends. A businessman who sources from China once told me that he got a much better price than the American in front of him at a trade event by knowing some basic Chinese phrases.
  • One company outsourced to an Indian company after training American employees on Indian culture and the importance of the Hindu religion and the holidays. The Americans made sure that they didn’t require things on certain holidays and were sure to make appropriate holiday wishes and inquiries. Their interest in and respect for local culture was rewarded when they had a mini-crisis with a delivery deadline and their partners were prepared to work overtime to get the additional work done.
  • One study of 100 companies that had adopted cultural intelligence training found that 92% had increased revenues within 18 months. “Executives at every one of them credited cultural intelligence as a significant contributor to those increased revenues, which in some cases were up by almost 100%.”

Making the assumption that ideas and practices in another culture will conform to our own is probably the biggest mistake that a business can make. If you want your company to thrive in a global environment, start by encouraging a global mindset. Train employees in cultural awareness and cross-cultural communication skills. Learn about the culture with which you want to develop business relations. Hire employees who exhibit the curiosity so important in cross-cultural relations. The investment will pay lasting dividends.

One of our cultural consultants Carol Cunningham contributed to this article.

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