The global pandemic continues to wreak havoc in all sectors of our society. Along with the healthcare challenges and the staggering loss of lives, Covid-19 is triggering waves of destruction of businesses of all sizes.
As the founder of a global digital learning content company, I’m constantly asked if Covid-19 means the end of globalization. The answer is no.
People have been trading outside their countries for thousands of years, and global trade will outlive us all. Over time, the expansion of trade and the exchange of ideas and cultures have led to the development of an increasingly interconnected global economy.
Every time someone visits another country, including the US, that’s part of globalization. Along with the economic benefits are the enduring advantages of cultural connections and understanding. The more we interact and learn about one another, the more we recognize our shared values.
So, while it is not ending, we will see a new version of globalization. There’s no doubt that our global interdependency is experiencing greater scrutiny as Covid-19 ravages countries and the global economy.
Already, countries, companies, and people are reassessing how to foster cooperation and best participate in a global economy that can create wins for the majority, especially during this borderless global health crisis.
As we get ready to emerge from the global pandemic, it’s clear that how we interact and communicate with customers and colleagues from other cultures and in other countries is evolving. It’s tempting to think that business, thought processes, and communications are the same everywhere.
It’s more than geography. Developing a global mindset requires that we understand how local cultures affect interactions, communications, expectations, and values along with business practices and analyses.
Wondering just how much culture impacts communicating and working with people from different backgrounds? Most people think that the language barrier is the only factor.
But it’s more. Communicating with different cultures requires an understanding of how culture influences communication tones, styles, and preferences. Culture affects everything and may explain why your multicultural work teams are failing to communicate and collaborate well despite technical synergies.
Most people hear about culture and immediately think about behaviors—a list of do’s and don’ts by culture and country. For example, one might think about bowing in Japan or knowing which gestures to avoid in countries around the world.
And while gestures and protocol are certainly important, they are only one aspect of understanding cultures. To truly understand culture, we need to go beyond the lists of do’s and don’ts. We need to understand what makes people think and act as they do.
Understanding the “why” behind a culture is an essential step in developing a global mindset.
At its core, culture simply refers to a shared set of attitudes, beliefs, values, mindsets, and practices of a group of people—a collective programming of our minds from birth. It’s this collective programming that distinguishes one group of people from another.
People’s value systems and reasoning are based on the teachings and experiences of their culture. When problems arise in cross-cultural interactions, they generally stem from our expectations. The challenge is when we deal and interact with others—whether in our own country or globally—we expect people to behave as we do and for the same reasons.
By learning more about why people think and act as they do, we can better manage these expectations and perspectives by becoming more aware of cultural nuances. This awareness enables us to globally reorient our mindset and, most importantly, our expectations—allowing us to more effectively interpret the gestures, attitudes, and statements of the people we encounter from their cultural perspective.
Cultural values do change over time; cultures and values are not static entities. Around the world, values and cultures are evolving from generation to generation as people are influenced by things outside of their culture. In modern times, media and technology have probably single-handedly impacted cultures the most in the shortest time period—giving people around the world instant glimpses into other cultures, for better or for worse.
Technology may bridge us, but local culture still defines our uniqueness. It’s essential, then, to learn how culture informs how we communicate, interact, and manage projects and people. For example, local cultural expectations impact employee and customer expectations as well as how people manage deadlines and communicate when problems, delays, and hurdles appear.
It’s helpful to understand that the next wave of globalization will require that we develop a truly global mindset. It’s more than just going global, which is simply the action of expanding into new overseas markets.
In contrast, having a global mindset encompasses an operational outlook that permeates all aspects of doing business with people from other cultures. Developing a global mindset depends on the ability to integrate varying cultural and business perspectives into everyday aspects of global operations and decision-making.
As we move past this global pandemic, professionals and businesses recognize that integrating an awareness of local cultures when managing people, processes, and projects will be essential for profitable success and global expansion.