In today’s fast-paced business ecosystem, transcultural competence is one of the most crucial elements to consider. From global collaboration to fostering and creating a culture of innovation, organizations and leaders need to be “trans-culturally” competent. Dr. Fons Trompenaars, the Dutch-French organizational theorist, management consultant, and author in the field of cross-cultural communication, who developed the 7 Dimension of Culture model for assessing cultural differences says that “Why is diversity such a big issue today? It’s because we’re not well prepared for diversity. We seem to prefer bipolar thinking – our models are bipolar and culturally biased. We create models that represent the world on mutually exclusive polarities. For example, consider Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) – a renowned personality assessment. Isn’t it too bipolar? Why would thinking occur at the cost of feeling?”
Technology is important but cultures just see technology a bit differently. And Trompenaars says that “the more we digitize, the more we will need analogue.”
Talking about why we see these waves of centralization or decentralization, Fons states that one can decentralize only when one is centralized and vice versa. One needs to balance and reconcile competing values. He stresses on the need to calibrate and redesign the bipolar models that make us oscillate from one extreme to another. He says, “Bipolar thinking has created five exaggerations for organizations: they either focused on corporate effectiveness, employee development, satisfaction of clients, shareholder value or, contributions to society. Neither of them reconciled dilemmas and was well-balanced.”
Why is diversity such a big issue today? It’s because we’re not well prepared for diversity. We seem to prefer bipolar thinking – our models are bipolar and culturally biased. We create models that represent the world on mutually exclusive polarities
Fons gave the example of HSBC bank’s tagline and stressed that it is a good example of organizations working at reconciling dilemmas: “The world’s local bank” – where they combine global and local in a mutually enhancing way. And leaders make all the difference between inclusion and diversity. “A diverse team might hinder an average leader, but a great leader can create innovation from this.”
He also mentioned the Car Dilemma. He said that if your friend caused an accident while driving fast in his car and hit a pedestrian. And you are summoned to the court as a witness to testify about his driving speed. What would you do? Will your friend expect you to lie for the sake of your friendship? Or will you value truth and testify against him?
Fons says that the answer depends on one’s culture and that we judge from our own cultural point of view. And whatever answer we choose, we can assert that Integrity is a super value and could mean both — helping a friend or even telling the truth.