Recently in the media you might have caught the United Kingdom’s Tourism Agency (UKTA) Guidelines advising locals on how to treat visitors to London during the 2012 Olympics.
While I commend the UKTA for trying to bring attention to the issues, the campaign seems to be lacking intelligence – specifically cultural intelligence (CI).
Typically we see lists of to do and not to do behaviors for Japan, Russia or China for example, but the list doesn’t explain why culturally these are important and different in the UK.
How is one ever expected to remember all of these recommendations without having some understanding on what shaped the need to be mindful of these situations?
What is missing is an acknowledgement for what Malcolm Knowles defines as andragogy, the science of Adult Education theory based on the assumption that adults need to know the reason for learning something.
This supports why I say culture is so complex that simple models are needed as memory joggers to help us become more mindful on the road to developing chemistry with others from other countries.
Consider this model of culture with its three levels:
1 Visible: clothes, music, food, festivals. Yes, it’s superficial but the one most known.
2 Behaviour: non- verbal communication, for example whether someone gives eye contact or not. That’s what most Canadians focus on.
3 Values: the glue behind decision making and behavior motivation specifically when it comes to value systems. It is abstract and usually unconscious, but most often is the key to how individuals define themselves: like the roots of a tree, deep and strong, nourished by family, education, geography and history elements.
So when you see culture guides like the UKTA or are contemplating developing one for your organization, think about this:Do you know what might be the underlying reason for any of the recommendations? Is your attempt to understand others culturally consistent with how you want to be viewed and understood?
If you responded with a no, then perhaps you are ready to learn more about CI.