If you truly value cultural literacy and want to learn more and leverage that knowledge as a competitive advantage for your firm, you might consider participating in or even creating your own cross-cultural training program. A good program will address the very deep issues of the different ways in which people live their lives and how they see the world. These programs offer best thinking and best practices on conducting business in different countries, modifying your own behavior, and working confidently with cultural differences in a virtual context or face-to-face meetings.
Although such training can be helpful, some experts find training may have more impact after a person has some firsthand experience to reference. Say you just started exporting to Japan, for example, and your key manager runs into communication problems not tied to a language barrier. They have more to do with a stylistic or behavioral issue on the part of the manager in that she likes to confront every detail in a conversation as if she’s trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark to score a home run, and this is too contentious for the Japanese communication style. After all, that’s how she is accustomed to behaving at the home office in the United States and with much success. The Japanese, on the other hand, like to minimize provocation and keep complaints or disagreements polite and discreet. That prods you to figure out how to keep the communications fluid and make a success out of your interaction with this market. Dealing with reality that something isn’t working prompts questions, and questions lead to solutions.
If you get stuck and have doubts about how to handle a particular situation in an overseas market, training might be your next step. Conduct a web search on “cross-cultural training” and several resources will come up, including web-based training available at your convenience. Take a look at “How to Create an Effective Cross-Cultural Training Program.” Before developing your own or participating in one, on the latter, be sure to get references from people who have used these services successfully.
If all else fails, read any of David Livermore’s books. He’s helping create a more culturally intelligent world one book at a time.